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Station Park developer sues city of Farmington for discrimination

By Emiley Morgan | Posted - Jul 16th, 2013 @ 8:13am

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FARMINGTON — The company behind the development of Farmington's Station Park complex has filed a lawsuit against the city of Farmington alleging that city officials have been uncooperative, discriminated against them and hindered their efforts to complete the project.

For 17 years, the Haws Companies has been working on what has become Station Park and Park Lane Commons, according to a complaint filed in 2nd District Court. Though the company sold the property that Station Park sits on to current owners CenterCal Properties LLC in 2007 to complete the project, it said it assembled the property, successfully annexed it into Farmington and finished its development entitlements.

Station Park is a mixed development outdoor retail space that features restaurants, entertainment and shopping. It features approximately 900,000 square feet of building space on 67 acres of land and houses such businesses as Cinemark Theaters, Harmons, H&M and many others.

"Without (the Haws Companies) taking the financial risk, time and efforts, the city and the community would not have the property developed to the extent it is today," the lawsuit states. "In fact, the city has been continually resistant and demonstrated an overall lack of cooperation as (the company) has presented applications to the city."

The company states that it has worked with Davis County, the Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Transit Authority and others on the project. It contends that its efforts have led to soaring property values to surrounding areas, and a windfall to the city in millions of dollars in tax revenues.

"However, Farmington City officials have been short-sighted and difficult throughout the process, fighting the progress at nearly every step; but then greatly appreciating the substantial tax revenues and community benefits and amenities as development proceeded, despite a lack of help and cooperation from the city," the lawsuit states. "The city has been quick to accept the praises of the community for the success of the project area, while turning a blind eye to how this all evolved."

"Without (the Haws Companies) taking the financial risk, time and efforts, the city and the community would not have the property developed to the extent it is today."

Now, the company is seeking to complete the development of a remaining 72 acres, which the company continues to own. But, in what the lawsuit describes as a "total surprise" to the company, the city has allegedly "turned its back" on the company and now refuses to return its phone calls or even accept its applications.

Apparently, the city has "failed and refused to proceed" on plans that were already agreed upon, leading to delays resulting in damages to the company of more than $1 million, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also alleged that the city has discriminated against The Haws Companies in an effort to benefit CenterCal.

The Haws Companies' attorney, Jason Nelsen, said that while there have been ongoing frustrations in dealing with the city, there have been three recent events that prompted the lawsuit. The first was when the city installed a water line on the company's property.

Nelsen said that wouldn't have been a huge issue until the city then allegedly refused to receive any development approval applications until the water line issue was resolved. He said the city also held meetings with area residents about the development without calling or notifying The Haws Companies of the meetings.

"Those three recent events have been the ones that have lit the match on a fire that has been burning for a while."

"Those three recent events have been the ones that have lit the match on a fire that has been burning for a while," Nelsen said.

While bumps in the road in such projects are expected, he said the hiring of City Manager David Millheim was when his client "noticed a dramatic shift in their relationship with the city." Millheim, Farmington, the City Council, Mayor Scott Harbertson and up to 20 unidentified "John Does" are named in the lawsuit that alleges breach of contract, numerous constitutional rights violations and due process violations, among other things.

Multiple messages left for Millheim and Harbertson were not returned Monday. Employees at the city offices in Farmington indicated, however, that the city had not received a copy of the lawsuit as of Monday afternoon and could not comment.

Nelsen said that while his clients are seeking some monetary damages, they mostly want the city to fulfill its obligations and treat them fairly.

"They just want that process to work the way it's supposed to, as opposed to constant obstacles being placed in their path," Nelsen said. "My client thinks it's a wonderful addition to the community and they want to increase that benefit and finish out the project as planned."

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