Claiming the city unlawfully blocked their controversial apartment project, Mission Springs developers filed a lawsuit against Spokane and the City Council in Superior Court on Monday.
“We feel the City Council has violated their responsibilities,” said John Clardy, the project’s manager. “Their action is more political than legal. We plan to protect our rights.”
At 790 units, the Mission Springs apartment complex proposed for Thorpe Road in southwest Spokane would be the largest in the city’s history.
The lawsuit’s filing comes less than two weeks after five council members voted to block the project’s construction permits due to concerns over traffic. At the time, City Attorney James Sloane warned a lawsuit might follow.
“I don’t think it’s too surprising,” said City Manager Roger Crum, who hadn’t seen the court documents.
Sloane was away on vacation and couldn’t be reached for comment.
The lawsuit lists as defendants the city, Crum and the council as a group. It also lists the council members’ spouses.
Mayor Jack Geraghty and council members Mike Brewer, Phyllis Holmes and Chris Anderson also are listed individually.
“When you do the right thing with integrity, you prevail,” said Anderson, the only council member who could be reached for comment. “We’ll show that to be true again.”
For nearly two years, neighbors of the proposal tried to delay the project because they felt that concerns about traffic and wetlands hadn’t been adequately addressed by the developers.
Their chief concern is that two narrow railroad tunnels crossing Thorpe Road make it difficult for more than one car to pass through at a time.
The council voted unanimously during a June 22 briefing to block the development’s construction permits until a new traffic study is completed. Two council members - Joel Crosby and Orville Barnes - were absent for the vote.
At the time, Sloane told the council that “any interference with the issuance of building permits, when the developer is entitled to building permits, gives rise to a lawsuit.”
During the briefing, Bob Eugene, the city’s top building official, said all issues regarding the development’s first phase had been addressed. His department was prepared to issue new excavation permits as early as the next day.
The council’s action was only the most recent setback to befall Mission Springs.
In May 1994, the city revoked all the project’s building permits because developers failed to continue work at the site.
Just two months earlier, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development withdrew $12 million in loan guarantees for the project’s first 193 units.
Mission Springs owner and developer Richard Lugli was seriously injured in a car crash in late 1993, which slowed the project’s process.
Project Manager Clardy said he and his partners have done everything they can to work with the city to move the project forward.
According to court documents signed by Clardy, the council’s action was “arbitrary, capricious, unlawful and/or in excess of the lawful authority …”
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the council that prevents it from “continuing to interfere with the issuing of building permits …” It also asks for unspecified monetary damages.
Likening the council to a “political lynch mob,” Clardy said, “We’ve done what we had to do to protect our interest.”