Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TOP STORY > >U.S. judge keeps all parties in land suit

Leader staff writer

Does a federal judge’s ruling Thursday in the lawsuit involving the North Hills golf course mean Sherwood must pay at least $5.1 million for the defunct 106-acre country club? Does it mean that the purchase agreement signed by Ron Campbell and Roy Marple is still valid? Or does it just mean that the trial moves forward?

The attorneys for Campbell and Marple and the owners of the property, Club Properties, speaking mostly off the record, said it means the trial moves forward. Sherwood City Attorney Stephen Cobb pretty much agreed.

Richard Browning, the attorney for Campbell and Marple, said, “My clients are stuck in the middle. All they wanted to do was to buy and develop the property.”

Stuart Hankins, attorney for Club Properties, believes the judge’s decisions strengthen his client’s claims.

Campbell and Marple had offered early last year to buy the property for $5.1 million and develop it into a high-end gated residential community, but a six-month building moratorium that the city council slapped on the property killed the deal, according to Campbell and Marple.

Through their attorney, Browning, the pair asked the judge to be dropped from the lawsuit because the city’s actions voided their contract with Club Properties.

Federal Judge G. Thomas Eisele denied their request Thursday. The judge also threw out the pair’s request to disallow testimony from a title company employee.

The denials mean Campbell and Marple are still defendants in the case, which is set for trial April 21.

The judge has set aside an entire week to hear arguments in the case.

Club Properties, which owns the golf course acreage filed the suit last year saying Sherwood’s moratorium and other actions by the city undermined its efforts to sell their property at a fair price.

Club Properties included Campbell and Marple in the suit because they want the pair to stand by their $5.1 million offer on the property.

After the six-month moratorium expired in October, Club Properties went before the Sherwood Planning Commission with their own residential development plan for the property.

The commission has delayed any action on those plans because the city is currently without a city engineer.

In the meantime, the city council has voted to use its eminent domain powers and condemned the property.

Under this time of condemnation, the city takes over the property and a judge decides at a later date what the fair market price for the property is.

City figures showed the property to be worth as little as $1.5 million, while Club Properties has an appraisal showing the property is worth $5.5 million.

Club Properties, in its suit, has asked the court to grant them “specific performance of the real estate sales contract, as amended, on which the buyers defaulted and require the buyers to fully perform under such contract by paying the plaintiffs the sum of $5.1 million, plus interest from April 27, 2007, or the contractual costs for the delay in closing plus an award of their attorney fees and costs incurred,” according to the judge’s 18-page order.

Campbell and Marple wanted to be dismissed from the case, saying that they did not have “specific performance” in the case because the actions by the city prevented the sellers from giving them a clear title to the property.

The judge ruled that even though the city’s actions may have influenced the value of the property and its fitness for some intended use, that action, alone, did not make it impossible for the buyers to produce a proper title for the buyers and denied Campbell and Marple’s request to be excused from the lawsuit.

The city still has a motion before the judge asking that it be excused from the lawsuit because it did nothing wrong.
Cobb said the judge could rule on that before the trial starts, or he could just let the trial begin.