Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Crown Point developer awarded attorney fees

Ruling is setback for city of Sun Valley

Express Staff Writer

The 5th District Court of Idaho has ruled Crown Point Development, the developer behind a disputed residential subdivision in Elkhorn, is entitled to reasonable attorney expenses in excess of $55,000 from the city of Sun Valley.

"I think it's one more validation by the court that they think the city acted improperly," said Wade Woodard, a Boise-based attorney representing Crown Point Development.

The Oct. 27 decision is related to a lawsuit Crown Point filed in 2003 seeking court reversal of the city's denial of its proposed design-review and subdivision applications for Crown Ranch subdivision.

The disputed fifth phase of the subdivision was planned along Crown Ranch Road, off Morningstar Road in central Elkhorn. The plan calls for 13 single-family residential units—ranging from 3,455 to 3,751 square feet—constructed on a 3.3-acre parcel.

The court awarded attorney costs and legal fees on the basis of a 5th District Court ruling in July that found the city acted improperly when it denied Crown Point's application for Phase Five. In a 30-page decision, the judge ruled that the city's action was not supported by substantial evidence, was "arbitrary and capricious" and violated the developer's right of due process.

Following the decision, Crown Point filed a motion for costs and attorney fees. The city of Sun Valley filed an objection to the motion.

The developer responded by requesting compensation for nine attorneys and two paralegals stated to have worked on the Crown Point case.

District Judge Barry Wood found it "unreasonable" to assess the city of Sun Valley for the costs associated with 11 individuals. Instead, the court awarded reasonable fees in the total amount of $51,220 for the time of two attorneys, Richard Greener and J. Evan Robertson.

Other expenses amounting to $4,061 were also awarded to Crown Point Development.

The compensation for legal fees stems from years of legal battles revived last month by the city of Sun Valley. The city filed an appeal with the Idaho Supreme Court of a 5th District Court decision that overturned the City Council's denial of the proposed fifth phase of Crown Ranch.

Sun Valley City Attorney Rand Peebles said the award of legal fees becomes part of the city's appeal.

"When the (Idaho) Supreme Court rules, they will rule whether they were entitled to attorney fees in the first place," Peebles said.

In addition, the developer submitted a separate notice of a tort claim in August seeking damages of $5.6 million for the city's interference with its development of the final phase of Crown Ranch. Woodard said his client plans in the next few weeks to file a separate suit in federal court to seek damages.

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