Bristol Downtown Development Corp. board member Jennifer Janelle managed tonight to do something nobody else did: she voted against both of the firms competing to win approval as the preferred developer of the former downtown mall.
She first refused to go along with picking D'Amato Realty for the position, joining three others to kill that motion on a 4-2 vote.
But when Renaissance, the Long Island-based alternative, was put up for a vote, Janelle sided with the two people who preferred D'Amato. That created a 3-3 vote.
With John Leone abstaining and Janelle refusing to back either side, it effectively left the decision up to just five of the seven members, three of whom supported Renaissance and two of whom backed D'Amato, the hometown company.
Janelle told colleagues she wanted more time and more choices before making such a crucial decision.
Since it's hardly been a secret that Bristol wants a developer -- the first round of bids last year drew out only one, with a questionable background -- it's not clear why Janelle thinks there may be more choices later. But she may know more than we do. In fact, that's a safe bet.
Anyway, it's all odd.
Update at 10 p.m. --
Janelle wrote a response that I'm reposting here:
Steve, to be perfectly clear for the record, I do not believe that we (the BDDC, as a Board) have done adequate due diligence on the two perspective developers. As a Board member with a duty to the citizens of Bristol, I do not feel that I have enough information to place my eggs in the basket of either party. I have made clear from the beginning that I wanted to encourage robust competition among developers for the right to develop our Downtown. I would like to spend a little more time investigating why the parties who had previously expressed interest chose not to submit. Is it the economy? The process? Is there a chance that we could get more robust competition by waiting until later, when the economy improves? Additionally, based on the information we have been given, neither developer has experience with this type or size of development project. That gives me great pause. Jackie reported that Nashua engaged in an 8-month due diligence process prior to choosing Renaissance. We have had these proposals for approximately 60 days. There has been no follow up due diligence by the Board. I feel that before I can cast a vote to award this project to a developer (a project that we all expect to flourish and last for 50, 75 or 100 years) we should spend a little time doing some more investigation. I understand the desire to get something moving and put that property back on the tax rolls. But I am hard pressed to believe that anyone would make a personal decision of this magnitude based on the dearth of information we have. I also have concerns about Renaissance's numerous similar proposals to other communities, including Nashua and Waterbury. How many others are there? How much attention will we get? I want to achieve success downtown, as does every member of the Board, each of whom is a hard-working individual with the best interests of Bristol at heart. However, I feel compelled to make sure that every rock is overturned, every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed before we move forward. I have never believed that in a competitive solicitation two responses is enough to choose from and I do not see the harm that would arise from some extra due diligence to find out why we did not have more responses. That was the reason for my "no" votes on both. My vote was actually a vote to take a little more time and do a little more homework before making a decision, an option which was a perfectly viable option. The Board is not required to pick between the two, and our own solicitation states that we have the flexibility to choose neither. I hope this clarifies and leaves you less puzzled as to why I voted why I did. I also hopes this clarifies for the folks in attendance and those reading the news story why I did what I did.
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