The council voted 4-0 to reject the claim during its regular meeting. Councilman Larry Buehner recused himself because he was one of the landowners making the claim.
The dispute, which regards a clause in a developer agreement implemented three years ago, may lead to a $1.4 million lawsuit against the city of Patterson by the former landowners, Fritz and Donna Schali, Kenny Buehner and Larry Buehner.
An attorney for the developers and former landowners put the city on notice in September that they would sue the city if the City Council denied the claim.
They paid the fees as part of a developer agreement for infrastructure improvements, such as sewers, gutters and roads, on about 60 acres of land near Park Center Drive and Sperry Avenue where Amazon.com Inc. is building a 1 million-square-foot fulfillment center.
A letter from the landowners’ attorney, Kathleen Hollowell, states that it is illegal to make any amendments or changes to a developer agreement outside the purview of a city council.
The land where Amazon.com’s fulfillment center will be built is part of the Westridge Business Park, which was entitled in January 2009. The developer agreement for the business park was ratified in September 2008.
Draft agreements outlined $1.4 million in fees for the infrastructure improvements in the project area. However, the versions of the agreement that the council adopted in August and September 2008 lacked the provision that laid out those fees.
The fee provision was later included as part of the title process for the land. The city received a letter addressed to then-City Manager Cleve Morris that was signed by the landowners Jan. 6, 2009, in which they agreed to pay $1.4 million in fees and asked that the provision be included in the developer agreement.
The Schalis and the Buehners paid the money under protest in April 2012 as part of the Amazon.com land agreement, according to Joe Hollowell, who coordinated the developer agreement for the former landowners and who is Kathleen Hollowell’s husband.
The former landowners contend that a previous city administrator did not follow the developer agreement law. But a developer agreement is considered a legal contract, Deputy City Attorney Doug White said.
The January 2009 letter from the developers asking to add the provision makes the developer fees part of the contract, White said.
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