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Urbanna seeks sanctions against condo developers

by Tom Chillemi

Attorneys for the Town of Urbanna have filed a motion for sanctions against Potomac Timber Investments, the plaintiff in a $4.5 million lawsuit pending against the Urbanna Town Council over its denial of a proposed condominium complex at Urbanna Yachting Center.

Through its motion for sanctions, the town council is seeking a “monetary amount deemed just and appropriate” by the court. In an earlier filing, the town asks to have the Potomac Timber lawsuit dismissed.

The town council’s motion for sanctions is scheduled to be heard by Judge William H. Shaw III on September 4 at 1:30 p.m. in Middlesex Circuit Court. Also at that time, the town attorney will give oral arguments for its motions to dismiss, which were filed July 10.

The motion for sanctions was filed on July 18 by town council attorney Andy Bury Jr., and Virginia Municipal League attorney John Conrad of Richmond. The motion for sanctions alleges that before Potomac Timber filed its lawsuit “officers, agents and/or attorneys of the Plaintiff made threatening statements to the members of the Town Council of Urbanna,” its attorney Andy Bury and town administrator Lewis Filling.

“These threatening statements included, but are not limited to, threats to the effect that if approval of the Plaintiff’s applications pending before the Town Council of Urbanna, the Planning Commission, and/or the Historical and Architectural Review Board were not approved as submitted by the Plaintiff, and/or acted upon in a manner satisfactory to the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff would file a lawsuit and seek damages against the members of the Town Council, personally, as individuals,” states the motion.

Potomac Timber “followed through with the threats made” and filed suit not only against the town council, but also against council members Megan Brockman, Janet Smith, Beatrice Taylor and Bill Thrift and administrator Lewis Filling. “The Plaintiff (Potomac Timber) filed the present lawsuit against these individuals in order to threaten and intimidate them,” according to the motion for sanctions.

The town council’s motion for sanctions also notes, “There is no good faith or reasonable grounds for the claims asserted against the individual defendants” in the Potomac Timber lawsuit, and Potomac Timber “alleges no actions by the individual members, but only actions by the Town Council and other boards, agencies and authorities of the Town of Urbanna.”

The motion for sanctions points out that the town council, and other boards of the town “act only as corporate entities and not through individual members” who are protected by “absolute immunity” from the claims.

The town’s motion for sanctions further states that “the Plaintiff (Potomac Timber) and its attorneys, B. Elliott Bondurant and John R. Easter, have violated their responsibilities to exercise good faith in determining that sufficient legal and/or factual grounds exist for the claims asserted against the individual Defendants” and “have failed to fulfill their legal responsibilities in order to do so.”

On Tuesday morning, the Southside Sentinel left phone messages for Easter and Bondurant asking if they wanted to respond to the town’s motion for sanctions. Neither call was returned.

Potomac Timber is not required to file a written response, but may do so at its discretion.

posted 07.24.2008

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