Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Council supports stalled senior-housing project

Sweetwater developer seeking more than $1.7 million in damages


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

The developer of the Sweetwater housing development, J. Kevin Adams, right, is seeking compensation for property he deeded to the city of Hailey. Photo by Mountain Express

A senior-housing project planned for River Street in Hailey gained support from the City Council on Monday, Nov. 29, though council members said they could not approve the project until legal matters are settled regarding ownership of the property.

"The design is superb," said Councilwoman Martha Burke. "It will allow seniors to be active in their town."

The council expressed unanimous support for a planned-unit development application that would bring the three-story, 24-unit senior rental housing project to fruition. The building would have underground parking, a bus stop and a walking path around the property.

It's intended to be rented to those 55 and older, with special design considerations for the elderly.

In November, Tennessee developer J. Kevin Adams filed a lis pendens (a notice of a pending lawsuit) on the half-acre parcel at 731 River St., creating a cloud over the title that the city cannot ignore as it considers moving the ARCH Community Housing project.

"Unless the city can maintain ownership of this property, we will have to deny the application," Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said.

Adams deeded the parcel to the city several years ago in lieu of building on-site affordable-housing units at the Sweetwater housing development in Woodside. The land was then valued at $1.7 million.

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Last summer, the City Council agreed to lease the property to ARCH Community Housing Trust for $1 per year to make the senior-housing project possible, but that plan was stalled by the lawsuit.

Adams has claimed that the city's affordable-housing law, which was recently rescinded, was unconstitutional and therefore he should regain title to the property.

Adams wrote to the Idaho Mountain Express last week in an e-mail that he is personally in support of the senior-housing project, but that he will not drop the legal action unless the city settles with him.

"All we want to do is reserve our rights or settle on all issues now," Adams wrote. "I have offered to terminate the lis pendens (pending lawsuit) so that ARCH can go forward, so long as the city is willing to let me do so without me giving up my constitutional rights to pursue my claim. That is their choice, not mine."

City attorney Ned Williamson told the Express this week that in settlement talks, Adams is seeking $1.77 million plus interest to drop all claims to the property.

Williamson said Adams' use of a lis pendens action is not applicable because he's seeking damages from the city instead of title to the property.

"I don't think it's appropriate at all," Williamson said.

ARCH Executive Director Michelle Griffith said she would seek an extension on financing for the project from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association in Boise.

"I will tell them I need more time in light of the settlement talks," she said.

The council will review the issue for new developments on Monday, Dec. 13.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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