Two Spokane City Council members met with Steve and Leslie Ronald earlier this week in hopes of negotiating a lower price for the couple’s riverfront land.
But the Ronalds aren’t budging from their demand the city pay them the $2.184 million a jury said the property was worth.
“Nothing has changed,” said Mike Maurer, the couple’s attorney, adding the Ronalds aren’t waffling on the ultimatum they gave the council last month.
“Nothing has compelled them to change their earlier position.”
Councilman Jeff Colliton - who joined Councilwoman Roberta Greene for the Monday afternoon bargaining session - said he remains optimistic the Ronalds will soften their stance.
“There’s no resolution, but we’re going to continue to work that issue,” Colliton said. “I’ll use any access I can to try and resolve this.”
On Thursday, Mayor Jack Geraghty denied any council members had been sent to bargain with the Ronalds. On Friday, he admitted they had. “That’s a real difficult deal,” Geraghty said. “You asked me, and I ducked it. … “When you’re in a situation in these lawsuits, you can’t (negotiate) in the public eye.”
Council members aren’t the only ones working to strike a deal on the Ronalds’ land.
Assistant City Attorney Stan Schwartz last week tried to convince attorney Steve Eugster to drop a condition in a legal agreement requiring the city to buy the couple’s property.
In 1994, Eugster sued the city to stop the Lincoln Street bridge from being built, but he dropped the case two years later when the city agreed to buy the Ronalds’ land to protect open space near the bridge.
After considering Schwartz’s request, Eugster chose not to back down. “I decided that I just couldn’t go with any change,” he said. “I think the city must be in a position where it has to buy the property.”
Schwartz said he was talking attorney-to-attorney, not council-to-attorney, when he suggested Eugster drop that settlement condition. “It was an idea I had in order to assist us in resolving a difficult situation,” he said. “I thought legally I would try to save taxpayers some money …
“I was never trying to violate the spirit of the agreement.”
Maurer isn’t surprised city officials would like to amend the Eugster agreement.
“They must realize the predicament they’re in,” Maurer said. “They’ve signed a legally binding agreement to buy the Ronalds’ property. If they don’t follow through with their promises … Eugster can walk into court and compel the city to purchase the property.”
The Ronalds’ land is tangled in legal troubles.
The couple planned to build a seven-story condominium on the 1.34-acre slip of land, but the council voted in 1995 to condemn the land to save the view of the Spokane Falls from the downtown library.
After a six-day trial last April, a jury decided the land was worth $2.184 million.
Council members debated walking away from the condemnation, saying the city couldn’t afford the price tag. Instead, the city appealed the verdict.
Besides the ongoing condemnation dispute, the couple has two lawsuits pending against the city. The first - which is scheduled for trial in December - alleges the city blocked the couple from building on the land.
The second, which was filed Aug. 6, alleges city officials “inversely condemned” the Ronalds’ property by promising Eugster they’d buy it.
That lawsuit came a day after a deadline the couple set on negotiations with the city.
The Ronalds sent the council a letter July 21 offering to drop the $3 million lawsuit over the building permit if the city agreed to pay them the $2.184 million. But the city had to agree to the conditions by Aug. 5.
At the time, City Attorney Jim Sloane sent the couple a letter saying the council “cannot move to your deadlines …”
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