Property owner holds up development project in St. Albans - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Property owner holds up development project in St. Albans

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The city of Saint Albans has big plans for a parcel of pavement that experts say is in dire straits.

"The pavement is cracked, there are numerous potholes, the line striping is very faint, there are wires crossing in every direction across the parking lot," said one of the city's experts and structural engineer Peter Cross.

An ugly duckling that abuts an equally poorly maintained city lot. But city officials and their team of experts believe it could become a 400-plus spot parking garage. They say it is key to moving a state office complex into downtown from the outskirts-- and hopefully-- to sealing a deal with an 88-bed hotel. Officials say both moves would boost business in the downtown area.

"To create a vibrant downtown you really need a mix of uses. You need office workers who are there throughout the day. You need retailers providing goods and services, and parking is the key to all of that," said David White, a real estate investor and expert the city called upon.

But, the owner of that parcel isn't selling yet. And the city says it could take the land by eminent domain. Keith Taruski hopes the city will keep negotiating.

"At any time were you willing to negotiate a site plan?" Taruski's attorney, Gary Karnedy asked him. "Yes," replied Taruski.

But the attorney for the city says Taruski's had plenty of time for a deal. The city made an offer behind closed doors right before the hearing Monday night for an undisclosed amount, which he neither accepted nor turned down.

"I haven't had time to scrutinize it. I'm not a lawyer," Taruski explained.

The city manager feels that by now the talks, which have been going on for three years, are at impasse.

"Let's do what we all agree should happen. Let's redevelop Saint Albans," said City Manager Dominic Cloud.

But Taruski's attorney, who was just hired Sunday, felt he didn't have enough time to prepare experts like the city's attorney did so the decision is being held off until a second hearing on April 8.

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