BY REBECCA PALMER
The original developers of the Station Park shopping center and housing project have sued Farmington City for alleged discrimination, theft of land and breach of contract.
The Haws Company worked for 17 years on the project, but sold a portion of it to CenterCal, which constructed the buildings and manages the existing development.
The Haws Company and Vice President Scott Harwood retained 72 acres to the west of the center. There, at what would be the Park Lanes Common development, they hope to build a fast food restaurant, retail center, offices, other mixed uses and a drug abuse recovery center.
According to the lawsuit filed Friday afternoon in Utah’s Second District Court, Farmington staffers and elected officials have stopped Harwood’s project from moving forward by, among other things, refusing to accept applications.
“To the total surprise of THC (The Haws Company) and its consultants the city has turned its back on THC and has not been willing to return phone calls, has been discriminatory in its actions toward THC’s requests and has violated contractual obligations,” the filing reads. “Now to have the city, after all that THC has done to bring this project to fruition, to turn its back on THC and disregard the overall plan the THC had negotiated with the city, is appalling and improper.”
The city council also rejected an application during a public meeting, saying it was incomplete, but the mayor later apologized and said the staff had been in error and that the application had, in fact, been complete.
On Thursday morning, City Manager Dave Millheim responded to some of the allegations, but said he didn’t want the matter to play out in the court of public opinion.
“I will say unequivocally that we deny any bad faith allegations,” he said, “and this is unfortunately a case of someone filing their complaint because they didn’t get their way.
Beyond the application issues, the city also built residential water lines through the 72-acres without the permission of The Haws Company, according to the suit, and has failed to comply with contractual agreements made with the company. The city also called a meeting of landowners surrounding the Park Lanes Commons property and didn’t invite The Haws Company, but Harwood found out at the last minute and attended anyway, according to the complaint.
“City officials have openly said they are trying to benefit and protect CenterCal from competition from other property owners in the area,” according to the filing.
Millheim denied that the city won’t return phone calls, and said that while it hasn’t refused applications, it has refused to process applications from The Haws Company that the city believes to be incomplete.
“The problem is this developer wants instant gratification at every step in the process, and it just doesn’t work that way,” Millheim said.
Haws Company attorney Kevin Anderson said he was surprised when he first learned what was going on.
“It is incredibly unusual, so unusual that when The Haws Company called myself and the other attorney that’s co-council on this, we kind of shook our heads,” he said. “Even real estate attorneys have never seen this.”
Anderson said the relationship between the city and The Haws Company has “slowly deteriorated” since Millheim took his post.
“It’s finally just got to the point where we’re at today where truly the doors of city hall are locked and closed to The Haws Company,” Anderson said.