Friday, April 6, 2012

Lawsuit filed over Senior Connection property

Plaintiff seeks $54,000 in ownership dispute

Express Staff Writer

A lawsuit filed against the city of Hailey and the Blaine County Seniors Council disputes ownership of part of the land on which the Senior Connection building sits. The suit seeks an order quieting title and $54,000 in damages for trespass.

The city holds title to the property at 721 Third Ave. S. The nonprofit Seniors Council, which owns the Senior Connection building, obtained a 100-year lease on it in 1981.

The parcel was originally part of a portion of Cedar Street that was vacated in the 1980s. At that time, half the street went to the Seniors Council and half to adjacent property owners Frank and Lorene Arambarri, who later sold their share to the city for $54,000.

The Seniors Council deeded its portion to the city when it undertook an expansion of its building in 2009.

In a complaint filed in 5th District Court in Hailey on March 21, Hailey resident Daniel P. Thomas contends that he bought the parcel from the Arambarris in June 1998, before it was sold to the city in November 1999. The complaint states that Thomas has offered to sell the property to the city, but the city has told him that it refuses to buy it twice.


City Attorney Ned Williamson said that at the time the city bought the property, the Arambarris warranted that they were the owners and agreed to indemnify the city in case of any third-party claims.

"They will be put into the lawsuit," Williamson said.

Seniors Council attorney Ed Simon said that even if a court finds that Thomas was the owner of the property when the Arambarris sold it to the city, he may be precluded from obtaining damages over an incident that occurred so long ago.

"You've got to pursue your claim—you can't wait until somebody builds on the property and then say, 'Now you owe me $54,000,'" Simon said.

Simon also said there are several legal issues related to the original vacation of the street.

"There won't be any quick answer," he said.

Kimberly Coonis, executive director of the Blaine County Seniors Council, said that if the court finds for Thomas, the organization could not afford to pay damages for trespass.

"We struggle every day just to feed people," Coonis said. "We could never pay $54,000."

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