Court Sides with District in Thorniest Skyland Case
Now that Skyland Town Center has landed an anchor tenant—which all but assures financing and other leases will follow—the only thing left in the way of getting the project done has been removing the folks who remain there. Year by year, lawsuits have been won by the District or settled, and the remaining businesses are being relocated or paid a small amount to close and move away.
Today, the D.C. Court of Appeals granted the city everything it wanted in the project's longest running case: That of Samuel Franco, owner of Discount Mart. The District condemned many properties back in 2005, and Franco argued that the taking was unconstitutional—a case that was weakened substantially by the Supreme Court's decision that year in Kelo vs. New London. Without going through the voluminous case history, during which the District produced 74 bankers boxes full of documents in response to discovery, suffice it to say that the Appeals Court agreed with lower judges that the District acted within its authority to condemn property in the path of proposed redevelopment.
"We defer to the D.C. Council’s determination, fully supported by the record, that the Skyland Shopping Center was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic development," the court wrote. "...We are satisfied that the record reflects that the Skyland project was executed pursuant to a 'carefully considered' development plan, and appellants' allegation of private benefit is by itself insufficient to invalidate the Council's valid public purpose."
It's been an unnecessarily messy process, though.
More analysis later as I figure out what this means for the project moving forward.
UPDATE, 5:36 p.m. – With Franco's case closed, and the District having been granted partial summary judgement by the Superior Court late last month on Autozone's case, just one remains: An appeal by Mary Greene, who owns 7 acres of the site, which will have oral arguments in June. After that, the District will have clear title to the land, and can then negotiate a price with developer Rappaport.