|By John Castellucci, The Providence Journal, R.I.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
July 8, 2004 - PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Plans by a politically connected developer to build a hotel on publicly owned land along the waterfront were thrown into disarray yesterday when the City Council lost patience with his efforts to chip away at guarantees that city officials insisted on having in the deal.
The agreement that Pawtucket was offering Alfred Carpionato, of Carpionato Properties, contains a clause returning the land to the city if the 200-room hotel isn't 75-percent complete 4 1/2-years after Carpionato takes possession of the property.
Over the last seven weeks, city officials said, Carpionato's representatives have tried to modify the clause in a way that would cause the city to lose control of the property, a 7.4-acre site on Division Street, even before construction began.
The City Council put its foot down last night, telling Carpionato to take the hotel deal or leave it.
In a pair of unanimous votes, the council rejected a resolution modifying the hotel deal in ways sought by Carpionato, and gave him 48 hours to sign off on the agreement or wind up in default.
"For God's sake, we're not building the Taj Mahal. We're building a hotel.
Let's get it done," an exasperated City Councilor Paul J. Wildenhain said before voting to issue the ultimatum.
"This is the second developer that we've had over there," City Councilor Thomas E. Hodge said. "If this developer doesn't want to do it, let's get someone else."
The council's action came despite efforts by State Democratic Party Chairman William J. Lynch, a former city councilor who is partners with Carpionato in the project, to win the council over to Carpionato's viewpoint.
"I don't think they have to say no at all," Lynch said. "In fact, what has happened is we have had numerous meetings leading up to today, including one as recently as July 2, when all of the lawyers, the lawyers for the developer's side, the lawyers for the city, everybody met on all of these issues and all of the issues were resolved."
Lynch's comments came after the City Council Property Committee recommended that the full council reject the changes in the hotel deal that had been proposed in discussions with Carpionato representatives.
The changes would have made the transfer of property to Carpionato irrevocable once the developer obtained the permits needed for the hotel, a Hampton Inn that was to have been built in phases, with the first phase resulting in 100 rooms.
Property Committee members said the changes would have made it possible for the developer to obtain permits and produce plans for the project, and then not proceed with it.
"Producing plans is nothing to me," Hodge said. "There are shelves of plans in this building and in this city that have never become anything other than the paper they were printed on."
Contacted by telephone last night, Mayor James E. Doyle said he was "1,000 percent" behind the council's decision to issue an ultimatum to Carpionato, whom he accused of dragging his feet on the project.
Carpionato was selected as the hotel developer by the City Council last August, after a competitive process that drew bids from his and two other companies, one of them for an office complex rather than a hotel.
It wasn't until May 26, however, that both sides were ready to conclude the hotel agreement and transfer the property to Carpionato for a nominal, $1 payment.
In the seven weeks since then, Doyle said, Carpionato has sought so many concessions that Doyle concluded that the developer is not really interested in pursuing the hotel deal.
"He balked his way right out of the ballgame," the mayor said last night.
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