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Groton seeks formal mediation with Mystic Oral School developer

Groton — The town and the developer seeking to redevelop the vacant, state-owned Mystic Oral School site are poised to move to formal mediation, after failing to reach a resolution during informal negotiations.

Town Manager John Burt, in an email updating the Town Council, said the town attorneys sent a letter on Monday to developer Jeffrey Respler, the principal of Respler Homes, and his attorney to “move the town to the formal non-binding Mediation phase per the development agreement.”

“This step was taken after the failure to achieve satisfactory results through the informal mediation process,” Burt wrote.

The request for relief is "Termination of the Development Agreement and/or other applicable contractual or legal/equitable relief," he wrote.

Respler Homes has proposed a mixed-use development that calls for a commercial component in the main Mystic Oral School building as well as housing, but the Planning and Zoning Commission has said it is not interested in a development of that scale.

Related David Collins column: A week before elections, Groton still stalls on FOI compliance for Mystic Oral School

The developer has an agreement to purchase the property from the state and also a development agreement with the town.

The town and developer have been in a dispute over the development agreement. The town's attorney has claimed the developer has not provided detailed information about plans for the site and not fulfilled his responsibilities under the agreement, while the developer's attorney claimed the developer has fulfilled his obligations and cannot file more detailed information without knowing what zoning is in place.

The agreement outlines that the developer and town should "attempt in good faith to resolve any dispute arising out of or relating to this Agreement first by negotiation, then by mediation, and finally by litigation."

Burt told The Day that the first step in dispute resolution calls for the town and developer to meet informally to negotiate, but the informal mediation, which began in early September, “has not resulted in an agreement on how to move forward."

“It was apparent it was time to move on to the second phase in the Dispute Resolution article in the Development Agreement, being formal Mediation,” he said.

The agreement says that if a "dispute cannot be settled through direct negotiation, the Parties agree to first endeavor to settle the dispute in an amicable manner by non-binding mediation using the Mediation Procedures of the American Arbitration Association before having recourse to a judicial forum." The mediation should take place in a venue in Groton, the document states.

Following the mediation procedures from the American Arbitration Association will include the use of a mediator to help facilitate discussion between the parties, Burt explained.

He said the development agreement requires negotiations to be confidential, so he is not able to share the letter.

Respler said Tuesday afternoon that he did not have a comment at this moment.

k.drelich@theday.com

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