Chill-Can developer strikes first while chasing town | News, Sports, Jobs

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YOUNGSTOWN – Punching out Youngstown, Project developer Chill-Can has taken legal action against the city to prevent it from clawing back a $ 1.5 million grant it gave the company.

The lawsuit also aims to prevent the city from seizing property and company buildings.

MJ Joseph Development Corp. and its sister company, Joseph Manufacturing Co. Inc., both of Irvine, Calif., and headed by Mitchell Joseph, filed a lawsuit on Monday against the town – claiming that Youngstown has no legal rights to it. money, property and real estate because the companies did not meet the agreed deadlines.

“City officials have repeatedly asserted that Youngstown has powers and remedies not explicitly set out in contracts,” said Brian Kopp, the company’s attorney. “To counter these statements, we ask the court to clarify the rights and obligations of both parties so that (Joseph Development) can move forward.”

The case was assigned to Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of the Mahoning County Joint Plea Court.

The lawsuit comes after the city’s chief legal officer, Jeff Limbian, said Youngstown would not accept an offer from the developer of the dormant project and the next step was to take legal action, likely next week.

Due to Joseph’s trial, the city’s lawsuit could be postponed by a week, Limbian said on Monday.

Regarding Joseph, Limbian said: “This is a cheap ploy to gain some type of tactical advantage. It doesn’t mean anything that he filed first and frankly, it’s not surprising. It is no use for him to come out in front of this.

Limbian added, “The only thing this ranking does is help frame the specific responses we will give. It strengthens our resolve. This shows that he has his own interests at heart and that he hardly cares about the city and its taxpayers.

Joseph offered the city $ 250,000 through Kopp last week on the condition that the city “leave them alone with no schedule,” Limbian said. The proposal was rejected.

It was the third time in just over a month that Kopp had spoken with Limbian and outside lawyers representing the city in an unsuccessful effort to complete a deal. After that meeting last Thursday, Kopp said: “If the city wants a legal battle, we’ll give it to them.”

On Monday, Kopp said: “Unfortunately, the city’s rhetoric makes it extremely difficult for (Joseph Development) to meet its stated (goals) of completing the installation, hiring local residents, starting production, and making Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley a center of the company’s operations. “

In a certified letter of March 29, the city informed Joseph that it had 60 days to construct a number of buildings and hire around 150 workers, or it would take legal action. These 60 days end on Friday.

The city’s lawsuit is reportedly aimed at recovering $ 1.5 million in water and wastewater funds donated to businesses as well as the property and three buildings it erected.

The city also gave Joseph a 10-year tax break, now in his fourth year, and saved his businesses about $ 125,000, as well as spent about $ 400,000 to buy 15 properties for the project.

Joseph is expected to hire 237 workers when the East Side plant opens, including 150 at present, according to city records. He hired two people, according to the city. Joseph grew up on the East Side.

Limbian said you can say “Mitchell Joseph is an old East Sider because he likes to throw the first punch.”

In the lawsuit, Kopp said Joseph’s businesses borrowed more than $ 4 million for the project.

“The project experienced construction delays for a myriad of reasons known to the defendant city,” Kopp wrote in the lawsuit. “Through 2020 and through 2021, the complainant, Joseph Development, faced unforeseeable consequences due to global restrictions and shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He added: “Despite allegations made publicly by officials in the city of Youngstown, the plaintiff, Joseph Development has not abandoned the project and plans to continue development.”

Joseph said on Monday: “The future is bright for our business and we are excited about the opportunities that will accompany the end of the pandemic restrictions. We have committed millions of our own dollars to this project and we want and need it to be an integral part of our operations. We recognize that there have been delays, but our global trading partners continue to work with us and we hope the city will do the same. “

Joseph had said the project, which began in November 2016, would cost around $ 18.8 million and would be fully operational by 2018 to produce the world’s only self-cooling beverage can.

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