A mediation conference that was set to begin Tuesday between the City of Delaware and a developer suing the city over water fees has been delayed to next month.
The case began in 2020 when Seattle House LLC filed a lawsuit against the city claiming its water fees are discriminatory. The developer had previously purchased 24.2 acres on the city’s east side across from Glennwood Commons and developed 240 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the property. In the developer’s complaint, it states the company had to pay fees totaling $1,917,883 to tap into the city’s water and sewer lines. The developer states it contracted an independent third party to investigate the fees and claimed the developer should have paid only $693,881.
The developer’s lawsuit went on to claim the fees the city charges to tap into its water and sewer lines violate the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The lawsuit also alleges the fees are leading to an affordable housing crisis within the city, and the fees are a form of racial discrimination.
The City of Delaware has filed several responses to Seattle House’s complaint and has disputed the claims made in the case, adding the allegations are “baseless.”
Back in 2020 when the lawsuit was initially brought against the City of Delaware, Lee Yoakum, the city’s community affairs director, issued the following statement on behalf of the city: “We are confident that these claims lack merit and the city will ultimately prevail. As in any community boasting a high share of multi-family housing developments and exceptional water and sewer service, individuals and entities utilizing these services are asked to pay their fair share. Our city uses a well-established method to determine these fees and allocate costs that is used by many of our neighbors. We strongly object to a prominent developer’s attempt to derive profit from a baseless housing discrimination claim.”
The parties filed a joint motion on March 31 requesting that the court alter the case schedule and refer the case to mediation by a judicial officer of the court. On May 12, United States Magistrate Judge Chelsey M. Vascura filed an order stating that the parties must appear for a settlement conference on June 28 before Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp.
However, earlier this month, Vascura filed an order vacating the hearing date and rescheduling it for 10 a.m. on July 22. Vascura also wrote in her order that she will preside over the mediation hearing. In her order, Vascura states that the attorneys for each party must attend the conferences along with someone who has settlement authority. The order states the parties should plan to be available for the entire day.
There have been no filings in the case since the order scheduling the new conference.