Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hands-On Court to Limit Talaris Delays

This information was posted in the most recent Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) newsletter:
Hands-On Court to Limit Talaris Delays
A February 26 decision by a King County Superior Court judge indicates that LCC may finally be gaining some traction in addressing a lawsuit the Talaris site owner filed about the property in 2013.
In November 2013 the Talaris (former Battelle) site was designated as a landmark by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. That was supposed to commence a relatively short interval (several months) in which “controls and incentives” would be negotiated by the Board staff with the property owner.  
Shortly after the designation, in December 2013, 4000 LLC, the Talaris site owner, filed a lawsuit against the City challenging the landmark designation and the Seattle Landmarks Ordinance as a whole. 4000 LLC then immediately asked the Court, with the City’s cooperation, to put its lawsuit on “hold,” supposedly to allow for settlement negotiations. Laurelhurst Community Club managed to persuade the Court to grant it intervener party status despite the stay (hold).  
In doing so, LCC pointed to its longstanding involvement in protecting the community’s interests in the site, illustrated by site use restrictions LCC obtained from Battelle after the Club had won a significant Seattle Hearing Examiner appeal about the site.  
LCC believes the 4000 LLC lawsuit has no merit. By filing but not pursuing it over three years, 4000 LLC is holding it over the City’s head, apparently as a means of extracting concessions. The stay of the lawsuit also makes it difficult for the Club to raise community concerns. These include the exclusionary fenced security zone that the current owner has created despite Club warnings that it violates the binding site use restrictions.  
4000 LLC has at various times indicated that a private school is undertaking a feasibility study concerning the site. Single-family residential development with clustering and potential commercial use have also been mentioned. Meanwhile, there has been a noticeable over-all decline in property maintenance, as its fate remains unresolved. 
The Court recently granted yet another three-month stay of 4000 LLC’s lawsuit. But, for the first time, rather than just signing off on paper, the Court required that the parties appear in open court.  
LCC was represented at that February 26 hearing by its counsel, Peter Eglick, with LCC president Jeannie Hale and vice president Colleen McAleer also in attendance.  
The Court asked 4000 LLC some pointed questions. These suggested that LCC had struck a chord in pointing out that the current pattern of repeated stays cannot be indefinitely extended.  
The Court ultimately allowed another three-month extension (it would have been only two months but for scheduling issues among the lawyers), but included the requirement that the parties appear again in May to report in person. LCC believes that this new hands-on approach by the Court will significantly advance the process.  
For more information about the Talaris redevelopment go here.

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