Town accepts $101,000, compared to original $630,000 bill
DAVIDSON – The Town of Davidson has settled a lawsuit challenging its growth-management ordinance, agreeing to accept a fraction of what the town originally asked Forest City Land Group to pay for its Summers Walk development.
By settling the lawsuit, the town keeps its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance in place, but the town officials did not say if the settlement might force the town to charge lower growth-impact fees for future developments.
Town Public Information Officer Megan Pillow Davis announced the settlement Wednesday morning, Feb. 23.
The town also did not say how much it has spent on legal fees while fighting the Forest City lawsuit.
After discussing the suit in a closed session Tuesday night, town commissioners emerged from that session to pass a resolution “that resolves the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) lawsuit,” Davis wrote in a news release.
As part of that resolution, the town agreed to accept $455.17 for each lot developed within Summers Walk, with the exception of affordable housing units, for which no payment is required by the ordinance. The developer will pay $101,047.74 for the lots recorded to date, Davis said.
That’s less than one-sixth of the bill the town originally sent to Forest City.
According to court documents in May 2009, the town sent a bill to Forest City Land Group asking for $630,641 in the public service fees for Summers Walk’s 209 lots. Twenty-one days later, Forest City sued Davidson, challenging the constitutionality of the town ordinance and the way town officials have enforced it.
Davidson passed its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance in June 2001 “to ensure that all new residential development can be served adequately by public facilities, such as police protection and parks,” Davis wrote in the news release. “If a proposed development cannot be served adequately, the developer is afforded the opportunity to provide those public facilities instead of having their development delayed or paying for part of the costs through fees.”
According to the developer’s suit, the town asked for $275 per dwelling unit for new police “service units,” $1,700 per unit for a future community recreation center and $1,174 per lot for a future fire station.
Besides challenging the town’s process for assessing the fees, Forest City also argued the town did not have legal authority from the state to enact an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Without specific authority from the legislature, the town is essentially “taking” the developer’s land by assessing huge fees, the developer’s attorneys argued.
Attorneys for Davidson have contended the town has authority through the state’s zoning and land development rules.
In the town’s news release, Davis noted that since May 2009, the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled three times against some aspects of adequate public facility ordinances in other municipalities and counties. “Although no court has issued any ruling on the Town of Davidson’s APFO, because of the uncertainty and expense of Davidson’s defense of the lawsuit, the board has determined that accepting a settlement is the best course of action,” Davis wrote in the news release.
The nature of the settlement, which is considered a dismissal with prejudice, means that neither the town nor Forest City can bring suit on this issue again, the town said.
In the news release, Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice said he is glad the issue has been resolved. “The town is receiving an adequate payment from the Summers Walkdevelopment, and I am pleased that we can now put this issue to rest,” he said.
In the same release, Mayor John Woods said he, too, is glad the town can turn its attention to other issues. “We’ve put a great deal of time and energy into this issue, and we’ve been able to reach a settlement that’s satisfactory for both parties involved,” he said. “Now it’s time we move on.”