ST. GEORGE – Last month a lawsuit was filed in 5th District Court claiming the Town of Leeds violated the rights of a group of developers hoping to build near the town. The lawsuit is related to the Grapevine Wash development, a long-contested issue in the small town that has not found favor among the more vocal residents.
Five plaintiffs, the developers, are named in the lawsuit against the Town of Leeds and 11 “John Does.” Bruce Baird, attorney for the developers, said the as-of-yet unnamed individuals or entities may be added as the civil case moves forward.
The lawsuit contends that the Leeds Town Council repeatedly violated agreements made with the developers and continually took steps to ensure the development would never come to fruition.
The developers are seeking relief from the court and are requesting a jury trial. In the suit, they are asking that the Town of Leeds be ordered to approve the a final development agreement for Grapevine Wash, an award of attorney’s fees, and any potential damages.
“We are aware of the filing,” Leeds Mayor Wayne Peterson said, adding the town had yet to be officially served. “We are meeting with attorneys to discuss the situation.”
Peterson was unable to comment in detail due to the pending nature of the litigation.
The lawsuit was originally filed Aug. 8 within 30 days of a July 9 meeting in which the Leeds Town Council voted against approving the latest iteration of the final development agreement. An amended lawsuit was filed Aug. 27.
The Grapevine Wash development sits between Leeds and Toquerville. It covers an area of 373 acres with a concept design of eight walkable villages spread across the property. Original density is planned at 2,500 residential units with 300,500 square feet for a mix of retail and commercial space.
Grapevine Wash was annexed into the Town of Leeds in 2009. At that time, the Town Council also approved the development’s original Annexation and Development Agreement, or ADA. A 60-foot wide access for the development that would connect to the frontage road along Interstate 15 was also approved according to the lawsuit. This access would be the primary road into and out of the development.
In order for the development to move forward, the Town Council must approve a draft of the Grapevine Wash final development agreement. The document was passed by the town’s planning commission in February 2012 with a recommendation to the Town Council for approval.
Questions about density and road access were among many objections some Leeds residents brought to the Town Council meetings.
With a possible density of 2,500 residential units at full build-out, Grapevine Wash was estimated to support a potential population of 6,600 people, which dwarfs Leeds’s current population of 800-plus. Some residents expressed fears this would fundamentally change the nature of the town, while others questioned the potential character of the people who would move into the development once it is built.
During the Town Council meetings, the lawsuit also contends that residents also made false and defamatory statements about the developers that the council knew were not true, yet supposedly did little to counter or to discourage. The lawsuit also extends these allegations to city officials.
“(The developers) believe that one or more of the Mayor and Town Council have privately perpetuated these allegations,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also accuses the Town Council of being overly influenced by the “public clamor” brought on by Leeds residents.
There were times, as well, however, when some residents also pointed their fingers at members of the Town Council and other city officials and accused them of working with the developers behind the scenes.
Repeated requests for revisions
On more than one occasion, according to the lawsuit, the Leeds Town Council did not put the final development agreement on their meeting agendas for consideration, further delaying approval. At times when the council did address the final development agreement, they would either vote it down or table it until the next meeting.
From early-2012 to mid-2014, developers worked with the Leeds town staff to address lingering concerns over density, road access, and other matters. The developers made a number of concessions along the way, the lawsuit states, yet there often seemed to be something more the Town Council wanted addressed or revised.
In December 2012, the Town Council amended the final development agreement on its own without developer involvement. The council’s version of the plan reduced unit density from 2,500 to 1,403, and increased the width of the primary access road from 60 feet to 66 feet. “Restrictive” traffic conditions relating to the level service of Main Street were also imposed, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims the Town Council’s unilateral amending of the final development agreement violates the terms of the original agreement agreed upon in 2009.
The lawsuit also claims that no other developments in Leeds, such as Silver Pointe Estates or Bulldog Ridge, have been put under as much scrutiny by the Town Council as has Grapevine Wash.
The developers and representatives of Leeds met in mediation in 2013 and came to a mutual consensus that was supposedly binding, the lawsuit states. However, the new development agreement, along with the Town Council’s 2012 version of the agreement, and the original draft, were all voted down in the Town Council’s July 9 meeting.
“I prefer a reasonable and fair settlement rather than going to trial,” Baird said, indicating the possibility that the dispute between Leeds and the developers may yet resolve somehow, though that remains to be seen. Baird added he was not afraid to take the case to trial if necessary.
“We hope the Town of Leeds is reasonable and the Grapevine Wash Development gets approval and becomes a development we can be proud of,” Baird said.
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- Attorney: Grapevine Wash will sue Leeds for relief
- Vote on Grapevine Wash development plan stalled over public review
- Leeds town council votes down development
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- Battle of public opinion continues over development near Leeds
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