I’ve owned land in Tucker County for 25 years and wish to share my recent experience with the Town of Davis government.
I’ve been designing a mixed-use development on a 7-acre tract in downtown Davis, Davis Riverwalk, for almost two decades, starting when Joe Drenning was mayor. After finding appropriate buyers for the commercial sites, I started the residential portion.
For three years, the engineering progressed slowly with multiple presentations at Town Hall and town approvals. Over the years, the mayor approached me with four different proposals to buy all or parts of the tract, while noting there were no funds yet available to complete any purchase. With no follow-through by the Town, lots were sold, house construction started, and the remaining 18 lots went under contract. A few months back we let the mayor know that it was no longer practical to entertain his offers. It’s noteworthy that I still have an unsolicited and uncashed check for $10,000 from the Town sitting here on my desk – a payment intended to entice me to stop our project. As of last month, 5 houses were completed, all lots were sold or under contract and all gas, water, sewer, electric and telecom completed. Demand has been tremendous. Having so many people share a vision for mixed use living along the once-abandoned riverfront has been immensely satisfying.
But last week, the bank of one of our lot buyers ordered a title search and my buyer alerted me that the Town of Davis had recorded a filing called a “Lis Pendens” on his lot, preventing him from buying his lot. Such a filing in the courthouse has the effect of placing a cloud over the title and the bank was unable to complete the financing. Upon learning of this, our attorney walked across the street to the courthouse to find that the Town of Davis, the new Building Commission (created to borrow money), and Davis Parks & Recreation had placed a filing on each lot and had also filed a Petition for Condemnation proposing to pay us owners $820,000 for all 12 lots and our private lane. The lawsuit was signed by Al Tompson as mayor, Annlee Boutwell as president of the Town’s Building Commission, and Daniel Arnold as president of Parks & Recreation.
After explaining these developments to 18 impacted owners and buyers, we extended the contracts of those for whom closing depended on bank financing. Financial damages for owners and pending owners are racking up.
I can safely speak for all Riverwalk owners when I say that we the owners of the 18 home sites of Riverwalk don’t want the government to take two thirds of our neighborhood and use it for ANY purpose. People planned to live and retire here. How is it a good idea for the Town to spend roughly one million dollars plus damages on an acre of land, displacing 12 new homeowners who would bring spending, tax revenues and overall economic development?