CHARLESTON - A developer has filed a federal suit against the city of Dunbar, its Planning and Zoning Commission and its City Council and one of its members, claiming it never will be able to sell 70 acres of land it owns as more than a single-family dwelling because of repeated actions taken against it.
Weidlich and Associates had plans to convert its property into 75 apartment buildings and 4,000 apartments and condominiums in 1998, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
But before that happened, the company was required to get the land rezoned from a single-family permit to a multi-family permit, the suit states.
The company claims two people emerged as leaders in opposition of the project -– Connie Boardman and John Wilshire.
Both Boardman, who is a City Council member and also is named in the complaint, and Wilshire lived adjacent to the property Weidlich was attempting to convert, according to the complaint.
"By personal enjoyment it is believed that Defendant Boardman has utilized Plaintiff's property as a barrier to prevent views into her backyard and her in-ground swimming pool," the suit states.
In addition to forming protests at commission meetings, Boardman forced the Planning and Zoning Commission to demand extra data from Weidlich before it would agree to support the project, the suit states.
"Essentially, Boardman wrapped the Commission up in statutory language that allegedly requires it to engage questioning of a proposed project that required a zoning modification before actually voting on the zoning request," the suit states.
Because of this, Weidlich claims it spent thousands of dollars compiling reports and studies.
But Boardman's litigation continued to provide the Commission with an out every time Weidlich supplied additional information, according to the complaint.
In addition to Boardman's actions, Wilshire enlisted the aid of local newspapers, noting that the property acts as a nature preserve where deer are able to roam freely, the suit states.
By 2000, Weidlich claims it felt its project would never be passed or denied by the Commission, who kept asking for additional information.
The company began seeking buyers of its land. They expressed interest but feared the struggles they would face with Boardman, Wilshire and the Commission would result in their inability to develop the land, the suit states.
That's why in September 2006, Weidlich again tried to rezone the property to multi-family with the intent to sell it, according to the complaint.
Weidlich claims it would not be able to sell the property as a single-family property.
"Plaintiff, through its President, sought to simply have the property rezoned in order to increase the marketability of the property," the suit states.
Again, the commission began asking for more information, Weidlich claims.
Boardman, who was at Weidlich's September 2006 presentation request, was asked not to cast a vote on the rezoning due to her past animosity, Weidlich claims.
"However, Boardman participated in the hearing/presentation by seeking clarification from the Plaintiff regarding use of the property," the suit states. "Ultimately Councilwoman Boardman stated that she had never heard of such a ridiculous thing to ask for a rezoning of property simply to better market the property to the public at large."
After hearing Boardman, the Commission voted against the rezoning, according to the complaint.
Weidlich claims it became clear to the company that Boardman would never approve a rezoning of the land.
"Defendant Boardman therefore acts as a Cloud of Condemnation over the subject property wherein she has by her efforts rendered the Plaintiff's property essentially useless," the suit states.
"Prospective commercial buyers in particular are aware that the property receives the ire of Defendant Boardman and therefore there is no interest in buying for reasonable development. For all practical purposes the subject property is condemned but without any compensation to the Plaintiff."
Weidlich claims today the property is being used by ATV riders and motorcyclists, but the company has not been compensated for its loss.
"By and through the actions of Defendant Boardman as described above, the Defendants have engaged in a de facto taking of the Plaintiff's property without just compensation," the suit states. "Defendant Boardman has acted in a manner to insure the Plaintiff is never going to be able to change the nature of its property beyond its current state of a nature preserve and buffer."
In the four-count suit, Weidlich seeks unspecified damages, costs, attorneys' fees, prejudgment and post-judgment interest and other relief the court considers appropriate.
The company is represented by Todd W. Reed of Charleston.
U.S. District Court case number: 2:08-1185