The City of Delaware has filed a motion in district court asking the lawsuit brought against it by a real estate developer be dismissed.
The lawsuit, which claims the city’s fees are discriminatory, was filed in the Southern Division of Ohio District Court by Seattle House LLC in June after it 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 fee 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 the city’s water and sewer lines violate the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The lawsuit continues that the fees are leading to an affordable housing crisis within the city, and the fees are a form of racial discrimination since “racial minorities make up a disproportionate share of lower-income households who rely on affordable housing,” and the lack of affordable housing has a disproportional effect on racial minorities.
The complaint also alleges the money obtained by fees amounts to unjust enrichment, and the city should be required to make restitution to Seattle House. The lawsuit asks the court to make the city pay damages, interest, attorney’s fees, and prohibit the city from charging the fees in the future.
The city, via its attorney, David Moser, responded to the lawsuit last month, stating the claims made in the case are “contradicted by fact and unsupported by law.” Moser wrote the city’s fees are less than or at least comparable to Ohio cities of a similar size, and the lawsuit amounts to Seattle House trying to make some of its money back. Moser added the allegations of racial discrimination were “baseless.”
On Wednesday, the city filed a motion to dismiss the case and a motion to stay the discovery process until the motion to dismiss is ruled on.
The city asked the lawsuit be dismissed on several grounds, including its claims are “defective and fail to amount to any cognizable cause of action against the city.”
“The complaint attempts to turn buyer’s remorse into a baseless claim of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and constitutional violations under equal protection and substantive due process to challenge the fees, thinly veiling (Seattle House’s) bottom line: this action is merely an opportunistic attempt to force-legislate a developer discount on the fees,” Moser wrote in the motion to dismiss the case.
Moser said the racial discrimination allegations and the allegations the city violates the Fair Housing Act both fail in part because Seattle House fails to establish that the city’s fees actually harmed anyone seeking housing in the city.
“There are no persons or entities seeking housing or lacking housing who claim harm in this case,” Moser writes. “…This is a textbook example of a purely ‘conjectural’ or ‘hypothetical’ threat of injury…”
In the motion to stay discovery, Moser said the discovery process will be unnecessary if the case is dismissed, as the city hopes, and asks that discovery be halted until after a ruling is made on the motion to dismiss the case.
A preliminary teleconference is currently set for Sept. 15 at 11 a.m.
There have been no filings in the matter since Wednesday.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.