Attorney: Grapevine Wash Developer will sue Leeds for relief

Leeds Utah Welcome monument St. George News photo by Joyce Kuzmanic
Welcome monument, Leeds, Utah, June 19, 2012 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

LEEDS – In a special meeting of the Leeds Town Council last night, a revised version of the Grapevine Wash final development plan was approved in a 4-1 vote. However, the developers are not happy with the changes and state they will take the Town of Leeds to court over violations of their original agreement.

The original version of the Grapevine Wash development plan was passed by the Leeds planning commission with a recommendation for approval by the Town Council in 2011. At that time, the agreement allowed for the building of 2,500 units over an area encompassing 600 acres. There were also a number of elements within the original draft that some Leeds residents found disagreeable and wanted changed, such as implications of eminent domain being used against property owners, potential traffic impacts, unit density per acre and so on.

The Town Council and Grapevine Wash developers made revisions to the final development plan which was to be voted on Nov. 14. Instead of passing, the council voted to table the vote in favor of making additional changes based on public input. The changes were made without the involvement of the developers.

A vote on the newest revisions was attempted on Dec. 12, but was again tabled due to public demands for physical copies of the changes, which were subsequently supplied by the council.

Among the major changes made were limiting the development to 1,403 units from the original 2,500, and requiring that the developers secure a primary access road into the development before any subdivision plans could be approved.

“It’s not a perfect plan,” council member Angela Rohr said before the vote was made.

The issue of road access is still a big concern, she said, but other items residents still worried about would be addressed by the town and the developers as Grapevine Wash evolves.  As the development grows, the people of Leeds would have to learn to adjust to the new character of the town, she said.

Council member Joe Allen issued a motion to vote on the final development plan with language that approved the reduced 1,403 units, yet allowed for a total of 2,397 units to be built on the 600 acres the Grapevine Wash plans to cover in the future. Presently the developers own 370 acres, with the remaining acreage currently overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.  The overall acreage was annexed into the Town of Leeds in 2009.

When the vote was taken, council members Allen, Rohr, Frank Lojko, and Mayor Alan Roberts voted to approve the revised plan. Council member Nate Blake was the only voice of dissent.

Reaction from the developers

Representing the legal interests of the developers was attorney Matthew Ence. He said the developers had made “significant concessions and compromises” on the development plan in order to meet the many concerns of the town’s residents and council.  Those original concessions were agreed upon by both parties in the development plan to be voted on Nov. 14.

Following the Nov. 14 meeting, the council made changes to the plan the developers did not agree to.  Among the changes noted were the mandatory designation of a main access road and the reduction of units.

“This is unacceptable to the owners,” Ence said. “There is no basis for the Town Council to make changes.”

He said the council’s actions violated the original annexation agreement between Grapevine Wash and Leeds, particularly in relation to the number of units allowed to be built. He said the council had responded more to the demands of “public clamor” above honoring the development agreement.

Ence also said the developers believe the Town Council had no real intent to pass the final development plan, but to stifle it instead through constant tabling and a unilateral revision process. And even though the council approved the new plan, the action was not enough to sway the developers in the Town Council’s favor.

Due to the alleged violations made to the original agreement, Ence said that “the (developers) will seek relief through the courts.”

Ence and other representatives of Grapevine Wash at the meeting departed at the conclusion of the developers’ statement.  Though the developers’ intent to sue the Town of Leeds has been expressed, an official suit has yet to be served to the town.

The Council responds

Mayor Roberts was the first to speak after the development’s representatives left. He first stated he didn’t appreciate how news media portrayed the Nov. 14 meeting and vote. He said the Nov. 14 vote had been treated as the killing blow to the development plan, when it was merely a disapproval of the plan’s form at the time.

On Nov. 15, St. George News reported, in pertinent part:

The amended draft of the development agreement was voted down in a 4-1 vote at the Nov. 14 meeting. Though the current development agreement between Leeds and the developers has been voted down, it doesn’t mean the issue is altogether concluded.

“The effect of (the vote) is that it is tabled,” Leeds Town attorney, Heath Snow said. The developers could revise the agreement and resubmit for council approval. “The ball is in the developer’s court now,” Snow said (at the Nov. 14 meeting).

When concerns were raised in an Oct. 24 meeting, that the developers could sue Leeds over violating the original agreement plan that allowed for over 2,400 units, Roberts said he wasn’t too worried about it. Municipalities get sued all the time, he said.

In his remarks at the Town Council meeting last night, Roberts said that just because a majority of citizens don’t like what a property owner plans to do with his  land, it didn’t give that majority a right to take away the rights of that property owner.

As for the pending lawsuit and the fiscal impact it may have on the town, Roberts said, “every citizen of this town may become financially responsible for this.”

“We knew this was coming down the pipeline” before the vote, Blake said.

As questions came from the citizens gathered at the meeting, Allen said, “I would encourage us to withhold speculation until we see what the future holds.”

Leeds resident Kevin Lee, who has opposed many aspects of the original development plan, said he could live with the revised plan the council produced.

“(The revisions) actually come across as reasonable,” he said. “I can’t find anything wrong with it. It’s a legitimate plan.”

Elliot Sheltman, a follow Leeds resident, still doesn’t like the idea of the development. “It was too big for the town to start with,” he said.

Related

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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2 Comments

  • Damie December 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I’m still curious as to how the developer intends to get the rest of the Grapevine Wash BLM land around or in Red Cliffs Reserve. They seem to be absolutely confident that they can obtain it.

  • Go Nate Blake!!!! December 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    The biggest problem being that the developers want to split a farm right down the middle.it is a working farm.taking someones livelyhood and trying to mess with it does tend to make more than a few people mad.

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