The developer suing the City of Delaware in U.S. District Court for allegedly charging illegal fees for hooking into its water and sewer lines filed motions last week demanding the city turn over all records related to water and capacity fees.
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 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 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.
In its complaint, Seattle House goes on to state the money the city gained from the fees amounts to “unjust enrichment,” and the city should be required to pay restitution in addition to damages, interest and attorney fees. The develop also hopes the court will prevent the city from charging the same fees in the future.
On Sept. 25, Seattle House filed a request for various types of information from the city related to the case, including all capacity fee permits issued for residential and nonresidential; identifying all persons who have filed any complaint with the city with regard to the fees; and demanding the city identify all changes made to the capacity fee calculation since 2002. The developer also demanded any document that refers to or discusses the fees, and any document that relates to water and sewage usage.
The city, via its attorney, David Moser, filed several motions last month, including a motion to dismiss the case and a motion to stay the discovery process until the judge decides whether or not to dismiss the case.
The city argued the case should be dismissed because the claims in it are “defective and fail to amount to any cognizable cause of action against the city.” Moser went on to state the developer’s claims are “contradicted by facts” and said the city’s fees are less than or comparable to Ohio cities of a similar size. Moser added the allegations of racial discrimination were “baseless.”
Moser asked that the discovery process be stayed because “the burden that discovery requests place on the city is excessive and far outweighs any prejudice that (Seattle House) may suffer as a result of the requested stay.”
“The sheer amount of time that it would take the city to respond to anticipated discovery, including witness and potential expert depositions, would be unduly burdensome,” Moser argued for the city.
He added the discovery process would be unnecessary if the case is dismissed.
Seattle House also responded to the motion to stay discovery, stating the city mischaracterizes the scope of discovery requests.
“The city’s threadbare motion does not substantiate any facts necessary for the court to analyze and conclude that the propounded discovery poses a burden that is undue,” said Arryn Miner, one of the attorneys representing Seattle House.
The motions in the case have not been ruled on yet by a judge.
Additionally, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers set several deadlines in the case, noting settlement demands are due by Dec. 1, and the discovery in the case is due by Aug. 13, 2021.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.