Developers sue Farmington city over multimillion-dollar project

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:43 PM

Bryon Saxton

FARMINGTON — A Utah development firm has filed a discrimination complaint against Farmington city and its leaders for holding up a multimillion-dollar 72-acre mixed-use project in west Farmington.

The 36-page complaint, citing 13 different causes of action, was filed with 2nd District Court in Farmington late Friday afternoon.

The city, Mayor Scott Harbertson, City Administrator Dave Millheim and numerous John Does are named in the complaint. The complaint claims the city during the last two years has been discriminating against and has dealt in bad faith toward The Haws Companies (THC) and its investors in their effort to develop Park Lane Commons at 500 N. Broadway.

The project is northwest of Station Park.

The complaint states the city has violated the development company’s constitutional and civil rights, as well as its equal protection rights and its rights to due process.

Millheim said he has yet to see the complaint, and city officials would need to review its contents before commenting. But the city administrator is quick to defend the city.

Farmington has dealt fairly with The Haws Companies, and it is “unfortunate” that the developer has resorted to filing a lawsuit, Millheim said. The “city denies any allegations of bad faith negotiations.”

Harbertson said he has not seen the complaint (as of Monday afternoon). However,Harbertson said, Famington officials have worked through other development issues with The Haws Companies in the past, including its apartment complex project, and it is unfortunate it has come to this.

“We have been trying to work through issues with them,” Harbertson said, and there are reasons city staff have not moved forward with some of the approvals requested by the development group.

Scott Harwood, a spokesman for THC, said the discrimination toward the company centers around the group’s attempting to gain approval from the city for a rezone and for approval of the master plan of the project, both requirements for the commercial/residential development to move forward.

Properties acquired for the purpose of creating a “master planned mixed use project” has resulted in millions of dollars being invested in the acquisition of the property and in the overall planning of the project area by THC and its investors, “which has resulted in a tax base windfall to Farmington,” according to the complaint.

Haws representatives find the city’s handling of their proposed project “discriminatory” compared to what is being done for CenterCal, owner of the Station Park development adjacent to their property.

The most recent tipping point for filing the complaint occurred in June when THC was denied application to the city for a rezone and master plan approval because the company did not provide an easement to the city for a culinary water line, Harwood said.

“Davis County and its economic development department have been very helpful and supportive in this visionary project. However, Farmington city officials have been short-sighted and difficult throughout the process, fighting the progress at nearly every step,” the complaint reads.

The complaint was filed in 2nd District Court by Kevin E. Anderson, of Anderson Call & Wilkinson, and Jason K. Nelsen, of Nelsen Law Offices, P.C.

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