Mitchell Talks Trash, Marijuana and Building 19 Site [VIDEO]
NEW BEDFORD — Trash, marijuana and retail development were the big topics of the day, as New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell made his weekly appearance on WBSM Wednesday.
The mayor gave an update on the City's lawsuit against ABC Disposal, Inc., which has said it will stop picking up recyclables on June 30 if the City does not agree to pay more than the contracted rate for the service. The two sides have gone before a judge twice now, and Mitchell said he hasn't heard anything from the judge yet, but that the two sides are talking in earnest.
"I don't want to get in the details," Mitchell told host Barry Richard. All I can tell you is it's moving with a sense of urgency, but our position remains the same, that they need to honor the contract."
ABC has claimed that changes in what recyclables China is willing to take in has made it more expensive to provide the recycling pickup, and that ABC footing the bill itself would cause the company to become insolvent. The City has maintained it may be willing to pay an increased rate, if ABC can show all its financial information to the City and prove it would be in danger of going out of business by paying the increased cost itself.
For the first time, it looks like ABC has started to comply with the request.
"They've shown us some financial information, but not nearly all of it for us to have confidence that this company cannot possibly abide by its obligations under the contract," Mitchell said. "Until we see that, our position is that a promise is a promise."
The mayor did say that if the two parties can come to some sort of agreement on their own, the judge would no longer need to rule, but said, "we're not there at this point."
Richard also asked Mitchell for an update on the development of the former Building 19 site. Mitchell said progress was slowed a bit by the sudden death of the developer, Paul Bishins, about six months ago.
"Paul's family has owned the mills in the city going back to the 1930s or so," Mitchell said. "Paul, over the last few years, had seen a lot of the city's progress, and was putting money into them and developing them. But when he passed away suddenly about six months ago, some of those developments slowed up as a result."
The mayor said Paul's son Andrew Bishins has "picked up the baton" and is now working on developing the mill sites, including the Building 19 site.
"They foresee it as a retail plaza," Mitchell said. "They're focusing on the possibility of a big box retail store, which is fine by me. What they decided to do is level the buildings and clean up the site...to make it more marketable. They're talking to major retailers, so we'll see how that goes."
Mitchell said the developers are open to "different types of arrangements," whether it be a single retailer or some type of plaza.
"What I'd like to see is that whatever happens there is going to compliment the neighborhood, add to the tax base, and look decent," he said. "We'll have some design standards built into the construction, so that it doesn't look like just any other strip mall."
There is also the possibility that a retail marijuana establishment could be located there, as Mitchell said he's still working with the City Council to craft zoning laws for such businesses.
"That may be a possibility, but we're still trying to work out how that ordinance will work," he said. "We're looking at industrial-zoned areas. We want buffer zones from sensitive places like schools and day care centers, and other things that people don't want marijuana dispensaries near."
Mitchell said that while the City is under a moratorium on marijuana sales until September 30, all involved are working hard to craft something that can be presented for public comment soon.
"It's a lot of work. It's a complex undertaking, creating a zoning ordinance that covers the entire city," he said. "It takes a lot of work, a lot of though, a lot of discussion, and the discussion with the City Council has been very productive, and I don't foresee it being any different once it's released publicly."