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Battle lines form in ‘town versus condos’

by Tom Chillemi

As of tomorrow, the proposed Urbanna Landing condominium project has been mired in legal wrangling for one year.

It appears the Urbanna Town Council and condo developer Potomac Timber Investments are no closer to settling the zoning issue than they were on Sept. 12, 2007 when the condo developer filed the first of two lawsuits.

In the most recent action, the developers’ attorneys filed a 64-page brief two days before a September 4 court hearing. Urbanna attorneys responded with 28 pages of arguments they delivered at the hearing.

The only court action taken at the Sept. 4 hearing was that Middlesex Circuit Court Judge William H. Shaw III gave both parties until Sept. 25 to file final written arguments.
The legal battle has ramped up. The developer is asking the court to clear the way to build the 14 proposed condos, and also is asking the court to award $4.5 million in damages claiming “Potomac Timber’s Constitutional rights have been violated under color of law.”

The lawsuit also specifically names as defendants four members of council who voted against the proposed condos—Beatrice Taylor, Bill Thrift Jr., Janet Smith and Megan Brockman—and town administrator Lewis Filling, who also is the zoning administrator.

The developers contend the 2006 Special Use Permit (SUP) for the condos “remains in effect.”

The town argues that four members of council (Taylor, Thrift, Smith and Brockman) voted on July 16, 2007 to revoke the SUP, and that the developer failed to appeal council’s decision within the 30-day legal time limit.

The developer argues that council’s “attempted” revocation was illegal.

In the town’s latest legal brief, attorneys also contend that Potomac Timber’s original SUP application “failed to accurately describe the property” and did not include or identify two tax map parcels.

The town is asking for sanctions against the developer, contending “there is no good faith or reasonable grounds for the claims against individual defendants.”

Potomac Timber argues it “is on firm ground asserting that the individual defendants are not entitled to absolute immunity because their attempted revocation was not a valid legislative act.”

More details will appear in next week’s Southside Sentinel.

posted 09.10.2008

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