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July 03, 2012

Ice Factor 'Disappointed' in Mayor's Moran Decision -- Also Not Pleased With How It Was Handled

Officials with Ice Factor, the Scotland-based company that planned to build an ice-climbing wall in Burlington's abandoned Moran power plant, say they have not been kept adequately informed of Mayor Miro Weinberger's decision to kill the Moran redevelopment plan. The company adds that it is disappointed with Weinberger's move, which he announced at a press conference on Monday, and blames the city for the complex deal falling apart. 

In a statement e-mailed early on Tuesday, Ice Factor managing director Jamie Smith says, "We have yet to receive any formal update from the new mayor or his administration on the future of the Moran development." Smith adds that he has learned from "a number of reports" that Weinberger intends to review the Ice Factor plan for Moran in September.

Weinberger said at his press conference on Monday that he had spoken with Ice Factor about his decision and that the company, while disappointed, said it understood his position.

Asked for comment on Smith's subsequent assertion that he has not been updated on the mayor's decision, Weinberger said on Tuesday that he has been in regular contact with Phil McCully, a Montreal-based member of Ice Factor's board of directors. The mayor added that Smith, in Scotland, is referring only to a formal communication that he said will soon be sent to Ice Factor.

Weinberger actually gave that notification in a letter dated July 2 and addressed to Smith; the mayor's office sent a copy to Seven Days on Tuesday. Weinberger's three-paragraph "Dear Jamie" letter concludes in part by saying: "Please know that the City of Burlington would be willing to consider Ice Factor in our future development plans...."

Reached by phone on Tuesday in Montreal, McCully said it was he who had initiated contacts with Weinberger in recent weeks in an effort to learn what the new mayor intended to do in regard to the Moran plant. In a conversation last week, McCully recounted, the mayor told him the Ice Factor plan was still under review. Weinberger subsequently gave him the impression, McCully said, that Ice Factor's involvement in Moran remains on the table and is being assessed with the intention of deciding its fate in September. McCully added that Weinberger was "encouraging" in regard to Ice Factor having an ongoing role in Moran's redevelopment.

"We're a bit disappointed at how it's turned out," McCully said. He noted that the company has spent "a considerable amount of money" in trying to advance the project. Executives have flown to Vermont from Scotland on a number of occasions, while he himself has made 35 trips to Burlington from Montreal in the past four years, McCully said.

It's not Ice Factor that has stalled the project, but rather it has been the city's inability to execute its end of "an incredibly complex deal," McCully added. "The city had asked us to put a fair amount of cash in escrow for the project," he continued, "but we said we couldn't do that because we're not the Disney Corporation" — in other words, a cash-rich entity.

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