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County to buy part of Marshall Square

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Columbia County commissioners agreed to purchase 26 acres of the 57-acre Marshall Square site for $6.25 million to settle a $57.5 million lawsuit filed last year by developers.

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Joe Marshall (center), a co-owner of the Marshall Square property, was joined by Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross (left) and his attorney, Bill Trotter at a news conference announcing the details of a settlement agreement that ended a yearlong lawsuit over the Evans land's use.  Donnie Fetter/Staff
Donnie Fetter/Staff
Joe Marshall (center), a co-owner of the Marshall Square property, was joined by Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross (left) and his attorney, Bill Trotter at a news conference announcing the details of a settlement agreement that ended a yearlong lawsuit over the Evans land's use.

The deal came less than a week before a deadline faced by developers to pay off a $7.5 million loan on the property between Evans Town Center Boulevard and North Belair Road to Queensborough National Bank.

"(The settlement) will allow them to relieve some funding obligations, and allow them to breathe and plan," Commission Chairman Ron Cross said.

Property co-owner Joe Marshall said he and his partners were making arrangements to pay off the note, but the county's deal seemed the most equitable.

"We feel, in the reality of the real estate market today, this was the best option," Marshall said.

Those involved called the settlement a "win-win."

Marshall Square attorney Bill Trotter said the settlement is the "most unusual thing I have participated in, in 40 years of practicing law."

Rarely, he said, will both parties feel satisfied after settling a lawsuit.

Marshall said the settlement benefits both the county and his partners because officials agreed to make infrastructure improvements, such as extending Ronald Reagan Drive to North Belair Road, which might cost as much as $2.5 million.

The developers filed suit after commissioners limited the number of apartments that could be constructed at the site.

The initial zoning for the multiuse development in 2004 allowed for 459 apartment units. When developers tried to change the plans, the commission limited apartment construction to 189 units.

In court documents, developers called the limitation "overly restrictive" and "unduly burdensome."

Despite their indignation, developers withdrew $40 million in punitive damages from the lawsuit in March.

A second blow suffered by the developers came in April, when Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet denied them a motion for partial summary judgment. Developers were seeking an immediate payout of $10.3 million to cover infrastructure, engineering and other development costs.

The lawsuit officially will be dismissed once county officials close the deal July 30.

The terms of the settlement agreement give the developers first right of refusal to buy back the land on resale and deny any plans for residential development on the entirety of the land.

The settlement will be paid for using money from the county's reserve fund, which will later be replenished with 1-percent sales tax dollars earmarked for land purchases or from the resale of the land.

Officials and developers said Thursday that they might develop a master plan for the property to guide future development.

Current uses allowed on the portion of the land still owned by Marshall Square include professional and medical offices, retail stores and a restaurant. The county now owns the land intended for apartments.

"We would like to see the area develop as the Marshall family intended ... without the residential component," Cross said.

Comments (161) Add comment
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ripjones
2
Points
ripjones 07/22/10 - 11:28 am
0
0
Oh boy, we got ourselves a

Oh boy, we got ourselves a Chili's out of this mess. I will be the first to publicly apologize on this forum, if I am wrong. My gut tells me that we will never enjoy the idea originally put forth by the plan for Marshall Square. What a shame, based upon all of the cool things right around this property. The county was wrong this time. They got caught with their pants down with Wedgewood, and they overreacted. Bless the Marshall family for taking it on the chin, for us. A sad state of affairs.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 07/22/10 - 11:31 am
0
0
No comment.

No comment.

baronvonreich
1
Points
baronvonreich 07/22/10 - 11:33 am
0
0
How did that feel Columbia

How did that feel Columbia County voters? Not even any lube.

colcores
22
Points
colcores 07/22/10 - 11:38 am
0
0
CC commissioners and the

CC commissioners and the local media sure know how to influence the outcome of an election. Had this info not been withheld from the voters, there would have been a different result and I don't believe it would have favored the incumbent.

Batman
33
Points
Batman 07/22/10 - 11:55 am
0
0
Remember a 'half-truth' is a

Remember a 'half-truth' is a 'whole lie'. I'm not sure if I agree with this but a good friend once told me you can't trust anyone who's profession starts with "P". --- Politician, Publisher, Preacher, Pharmacist, Professor, Poet, Physician, Printer, Plumber, Policeman, Psychiatrist, Pawnbroker, etc., etc., etc.

schoolparent
114
Points
schoolparent 07/22/10 - 12:00 pm
0
0
LOL, Pretty funny Batman

LOL, Pretty funny Batman

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:00 pm
0
0
BVR...what was the better

BVR...what was the better outcome here? Please elaborate. And if you say that the Marshall Sq folks should have just moved forward with apts...I have about 85% of CC voters that would disagree with you.

clumber
43
Points
clumber 07/22/10 - 12:01 pm
0
0
I am not schocked by the

I am not schocked by the timing or amount of this settlement. Remember, with politicians, it is not their money and they don't care.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:01 pm
0
0
Oh...and the "plan" was

Oh...and the "plan" was upscale development all the way. When that went SOUTH...and it did...the commissioners were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:05 pm
0
0
What we have here is a whole

What we have here is a whole bunch of commentary by people with very little understanding of this entire soap opera.

If you pulled up on the Normandy Invasion in progress, without any background, you would have been appalled at the senselessness of it all.

With the proper history lesson, you know it was a vital battle to END the war in Europe.

Yeah...this settlement solution stinks.

Until you consider the alternative. By comparison, this is a great deal.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:10 pm
0
0
Baron, you just gonna spew or

Baron, you just gonna spew or offer a better alternative?

montega12
0
Points
montega12 07/22/10 - 12:11 pm
0
0
agreed baron agreed

agreed baron agreed

matjoe
30
Points
matjoe 07/22/10 - 12:17 pm
0
0
I agree, Austin, eat crow and

I agree, Austin, eat crow and be done with it. Its just that tax money paid $240,384 per acre. That's the hard part to swallow.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:18 pm
0
0
Any of you Monday Morning QBs

Any of you Monday Morning QBs got a better plan on how this should have been handled or do you just like to sit back and complain for the pure thrill of it?

Little Lamb
50705
Points
Little Lamb 07/22/10 - 12:18 pm
0
0
Austin Rhodes wrote: And if

Austin Rhodes wrote:

And if you say that the Marshall Sq folks should have just moved forward with apts...I have about 85% of CC voters that would disagree with you.

Huh? The owners could not just "move forward" with apartments. That was the reason for the lawsuit. When the owners sought and got PUD zoning for the entire parcel, they were required to build what the said they would build. That is why they call it "planned unit" development.

What you had here was a bunch of undercapitalized wanna-bes who tried to play a bait and switch game on the county.

ripjones
2
Points
ripjones 07/22/10 - 12:18 pm
0
0
Austin - I have attended most

Austin - I have attended most of the Commission meetings, when Marshall Square was discussed. Including the last one, just before the lawsuit was going to be filed -- the discussion still centered around upscale products. Where/When did you hear that "it went South"??

Little Lamb
50705
Points
Little Lamb 07/22/10 - 12:21 pm
0
0
Yeah, I'll play Monday

Yeah, I'll play Monday morning quarterback. I say the county should have allowed the suit to go to trial. The argument of the plaintiff (Marshall "family") was that they should be allowed to build whatever they wanted to in spite of how the land is zoned and in spite of what was authorized by the government. The argument of the defendant (government) is that the government must be allowed to enforce its ordinances.

I think the government would have won that argument.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:22 pm
0
0
The number and quality of the

The number and quality of the apt units changed dramatically from when this thing was first introduced to what it was when the county moved to restrict.

The county was attempting to rezone retroactively, and THAT is a no-no. The lawsuit would have been fought over the intent of certain terms within the original agreement, square footage of units...etc...
There is also some debate back and forth over whether these units were going to be condos or simply rental apts.

Ron Cross will be on this afternoon...feel free to ask him.

Little Lamb
50705
Points
Little Lamb 07/22/10 - 12:27 pm
0
0
To RipJones: All of the talk

To RipJones: All of the talk about "upscale" and "up-upscale" apartments was smoke being blown by the real estate developer from Ohio in the Armani suit. You cannot trust them to build what they say. Every year or so they would come back and change the plan of what they wanted the county to approve. The county finally had enough and said, "No, just build what is approved and follow the zoning ordinances." That led to the lawsuit.

Little Lamb
50705
Points
Little Lamb 07/22/10 - 12:26 pm
0
0
Austin Rhodes said: The

Austin Rhodes said:

The county was attempting to rezone retroactively. . .

That is absolutely not true. Ron Cross will tell you that this afternoon if you make this charge to his face.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 07/22/10 - 12:31 pm
0
0
It's not just the $6.25

It's not just the $6.25 million for the taxpayers. It's also a loss of property tax revenue on 26 commercial acres. What would that be about $100,000+ per year?

Also, how much will the taxpayers have to pay to build this thing into a temporary park? Another couple hundred thousand?

Just some small details left out of the story. Though I expect there will be more surfacing in the future.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:29 pm
0
0
I believe the county granted

I believe the county granted broad permission (by oversight) and allowed some loopholes that they later attempted to close by defining more clearly THEIR intent. Technically, that is a re-zone...but that is why the lawsuit was moving forward...

baronvonreich
1
Points
baronvonreich 07/22/10 - 12:31 pm
0
0
A blowhard will always be a

A blowhard will always be a blowhard and a shrill for the establishment.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:32 pm
0
0
The county can sell the land

The county can sell the land when they want (I doubt it would ever be much cheaper than what they bought it for), recoup their money, and likely make some in the process. Had they left it sitting there while a costly lawsuit went forward, God knows when the thing would have been done, or what the outcome would have been...

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:35 pm
0
0
AC folks...if you are going

AC folks...if you are going to delete my vocabulary tips for the Baron, please explain to him in your own words the difference between "shill" and "shrill".

Kinda ironic, he is shrill in his accusation that I am a shill.

colcores
22
Points
colcores 07/22/10 - 12:35 pm
0
0
I bet Ron Cross knows exactly

I bet Ron Cross knows exactly what Austin will ask him this afternoon.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 07/22/10 - 12:38 pm
0
0
You folks are free to call in

You folks are free to call in and ask him whatever you want.

Local Interests
40
Points
Local Interests 07/22/10 - 12:43 pm
0
0
I agree that this was not the

I agree that this was not the worst outcome for CC to endure. Of course, I think it is kind of funny how there is an attempt to paint Ron Cross as a hero in this deal. Remember, he was at the helm at the start of the fiasco. He may have somewhat mitigated the damage that could have been caused by either Marshall Square becoming a giant apartment complex of the county losing a large lawsuit but he still spent $6.25M in taxpayer dollars that never should have been spent.
As I've said before, I just hope the commissioners have learned how to zone property to avoid these mega-mistakes in the future.
Also, those of you who think Joe Marshall and his partners should be made saints obviously did not experience the threatening calls like the one made to one of the speakers against the plan revision at a commission meeting.

Mr. Thackeray
1000
Points
Mr. Thackeray 07/22/10 - 12:44 pm
0
0
Austin, it is quite obvious

Austin, it is quite obvious from your comments during the election cycle and here that you are now a "kept man" for the good old boys of CC.

csrareader
1288
Points
csrareader 07/22/10 - 12:44 pm
0
0
For those who ask for a

For those who ask for a better alternative... here's a thought. Maybe if Ron Cross and the County Commission had done a better job up front, they would not have gotten put in a squeeze where they had to spend over $6 million of our money without blinking.

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