The four landowners, one of whom is Councilman Larry Buehner, filed the suit Jan. 8 and served the lawsuit March 5.
The lawsuit claims the city illegally required the landowners to pay $1.4 million in developer fees by not following state developer agreement laws.
An attorney for the former owners of the land in Westridge Business Park warned the city in September that they would sue if the City Council denied the claim. The City Council unanimously rejected the claim at a Nov. 20 meeting, with Councilman Larry Buehner not present.
The former owners are Larry Buehner, his brother Kenny Buehner, and Fritz and Donna Schali.
The contested developer agreement laid out provisions to develop the land in Westridge Business Park where a 1 million-square-foot Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center is being built. One provision in that agreement called for $1.4 million in developer fees to be paid to the city for improvements to road and sewer infrastructure when the land was sold for development.
Draft agreements outlined the $1.4 million in fees for the infrastructure improvements in the project area. However, the final version adopted in September 2008 lacked the provision that laid out those fees. The former landowners contend that a previous city administrator did not follow the developer agreement law.
The city later received a letter addressed to then-City Manager Cleve Morris that was signed Jan. 6, 2009, by the landowners, who agreed to pay $1.4 million in developer fees and asked that the omitted provision be added to the developer agreement.
The fee provision was later included as part of the title process for the land.
Under dispute are the fees paid by to the city for infrastructure improvements, such as sewers, gutters and roads, on about 60 acres near Park Center Drive and Sperry Avenue.
The suit filed by the landowners’ attorney, Kathleen Hollowell, states that it is illegal to change a developer agreement outside the purview of a City Council.
“We have a disagreement over a letter,” said Doug White, deputy city attorney, on Tuesday, March 26. “This is more of an interpretation of law, and it should move fast through the legal process.”
While White would not go into specifics of the case because it is pending litigation, he said the letter is a contract.
The Schalis and the Buehners paid the money under protest in April as part of a land agreement with Amazon.com, according to Joe Hollowell, who coordinated the developer agreement for the former landowners and who is Kathleen Hollowell’s husband.
Morris said Tuesday, March 25, that he was not aware of the lawsuit and had no comment on the matter. Councilman Dominic Farinha, the only remaining member of the council from 2008, made no comment Tuesday, March 26.
A call to Joe Hollowell was not returned this week, and a call to Kathleen Hollowell also was not answered.
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