Thursday, February 25, 2016

City of Shawnee Sued - The Vantage Saga Continues

In case you haven't heard, the City of Shawnee is being sued by QRIVIT, LLC as a result of the failed Vantage at Shawnee project.  Shawnee Dispatch article here  The case number is 16CV01076 and is filed in Johnson County.

Let me see if I can explain exactly what has transpired.  QRIVIT, LLC is the owner of the property where the developers wanted to build Vantage at Shawnee.  I believe they had what was called a conditional sale pending.  The developers would buy the property on the condition that the city approved the rezoning and accordingly the project.

The Planning Commission approved the rezoning and the project. Various property owners in the immediate area of the project were not in favor of it.  There is a provision in K.S.A. 12-757 for individuals to sign a protest petition against a project.  Basically, if individuals who own 25% or more of the property, within a 200' buffer of the project location (excluding city ROW) then there is a modified procedure for the City Council to give final approval.  The Council would have to approve the project by a super majority (7 of 9) in order for it to proceed.  As such, the required council threshold was not met and the project died.  Apparently, the plaintiff in the lawsuit is claiming losses as a result of the council turning the project down.  Some on the council voted the project down because they didn't think it was a good fit for the area, and others supported the petitioners. 

Now let's look at some interesting numbers.  There are 1,016,419 sq. ft. of land within the 200' buffer area surrounding the project.  There were 22 individuals who signed the protest petitions which accounted for 276,032 sq. ft. or 27.15% of the protest area.  That met the statutory requirements.  Now what about the 72.85% of the land or approximately 740,000 sq. ft.  Large portions of the land are owned by the city, a major utility, a church and a major retailer.  Also, portions of 28 other residential properties are included.  Now, that could include more than 28 individuals since many properties probably have multiple owners.

Now the city will have to expend funds to defend the lawsuit.  What happens if the city loses the suit?  How much in damages would it be required to pay?  Keep in mind the "city" is us, because the city's money comes from the taxpayers, all of us.  Depending on the costs, it is possible that funds might have to be diverted or reallocated from other projects and/or services.

Now, the 22 folks who signed the protest petitions had every legal right to do so.  The state law is clear on that.  But what has now happened is that the actions of those 22 folks have now possibly placed a financial burden on the rest of the city.  So I have a few questions for those 22 folks:

1.  Would you be willing to pay into a fund to reimburse your neighbors and the rest of the city for the costs associated with defending the lawsuit?

2.  If the city loses the lawsuit would you be willing to pay into a fund to reimburse your neighbors and the rest of the city for the costs associated with any loss awarded by the court?

3.  Would those individuals who as attorneys spoke against the project be willing to donate  (pro bono) their services to help the city defend against the lawsuit?

This just started, so it will be awhile before the judicial outcome is finalized.  It is going to get interesting.  Now I'm going to play devil's advocate here.  There may be some individuals that might be upset about the possibility of the city (us) having to spend substantial sums of money because of this.  Before those individuals get upset, remember, there may come a day when you might want to sign a protest petition against a proposed building project in your neighborhood. Now that could be a wild possibility............