The City of Delaware and a Columbus developer suing the city over water fees both filed reports with the United States District Court last month detailing their ongoing mediation and settlement discussions.
The parties have been embroiled in a legal battle since 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 said the allegations against it are “baseless” and has disputed the claims made in the case.
In the spring of this year, the city and Seattle House asked the court to move the case to mediation, which the court approved. According to court records, the parties met for a mediation conference in July 22 but there were no filings after the conference. In October, U.S. Magistrate Judge Chelsea M. Vascura filed an order to both parties asking for an update.
Seattle House and the city responded on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11, respectively.
In its response, Seattle House states it presented the city with a settlement agreement and said the city provided revisions to the agreement that “contravene and materially alter the Terms of Settlement.” Seattle House goes on to state it remains committed to “working in good faith through the revisions to the Settlement agreement” and finalizing it.
The city’s response states it intended to file a joint status report “telling the court what it needed to know: the parties mediated, reached an agreement, and exchanged drafts of final settlement documents,” but it objected to Seattle House wanting to “tell the court its opinion” of the city’s draft.
“Like Plaintiff, the City has an opinion of what was in Plaintiff’s initial draft, such as additional monetary payments not negotiated at mediation, but wanted the status report to focus on the future, not the past,” the city wrote in its report to the court. “(Seattle House)’s opinion of the City’s draft settlement documents is both unnecessary and unfounded.”
The city concluded by saying it’s also committed to working through the revisions and finalizing a settlement.