Springfield RMV project dispute returns to federal court

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It was an animated motion hearing on Wednesday for a dispute that cost a developer a state contract for a Springfield area Registry of Motor Vehicles. Springfield City Solicitor Ed Pikula called this a “disappointed developer case”, arguing that the developer is pinning their failure on the city.

Developers and land owners, HDC Four LLC., and Martone Place, LLC, sued the City of Springfield back in October. Martone Place LLC., won the bid for a new Springfield-area R.M.V., then the state terminated its contract more than a year later.

In February of 2014, Martone Place, LLC. signed a lease with MassDOT for a new registry on Martone Place in Springfield. The state was going to lease the Martone Place location for $625,000 a year for at least 10 years. The deadline to complete the R.M.V. was initially September 15th, 2014. Martone Place never started construction because the city never gave them a building permit.

Attorney Bart Heemskerk, representing Martone Place and HDC Four in Federal Court on Wednesday argued that there was a conspiracy against his clients because the city wanted one of “their guys” to win the bid for the Registry; so the city did all in its power to force his clients to miss their deadline. The city, Heemskerk argued, ran out the clock on his clients.

In May of 2015, MassDOT terminated the lease with Martone Place because they didn’t finish the project by its deadline.

Attorney Pikula on Wednesday was arguing to Magistrate Judge Katherine Robertson that the developers were just “throwing garbage at the wall to see what sticks.” Pikula said the developers never appealed their complaints to the Zoning Board and have already lost a similar case in Hampden Superior Court.

Pikula wanted this case to be dismissed. At one point, he mocked one of the plaintiffs’ allegations in their lawsuit. An animated Pikula banged his fist on the table, which is what the plaintiffs said former DPW Director Al Chwalek did at one point when he told the plaintiffs “it (the Registry) is not going there.”

Attorney Heemskerk argued that his clients were victims of a conspiracy by city leaders to make sure that this project failed.

The city, Deputy Director of Planning Philip Dromey, Director of Public Works Chris Cignoli, Building Commissioner Steve Desilets and former DPW Director Al Chwalek are named in the lawsuit.

The Springfield R.M.V. was eventually awarded to the Davenport Companies, who are a developer on the MGM Springfield project. The state owned Liberty Street location is now closed. The new registry is inside an old movie theater at the Springfield Plaza.

Magistrate Judge Robertson will likely rule on the city’s motion to dismiss in the next few weeks.

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