Park Place fight: which court?
Neighbors of the proposed Park Place parking garage have asked a district court judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the project’s developers, claiming the case belongs in Aspen Municipal Court.Ironically, the city of Aspen, which is being sued by the developers, as are the neighbors, is opposing the motion to dismiss the case and rebutting the neighbors’ latest tack. Hyman Avenue Holdings LLC, the developer of the beleaguered garage project, also contends the case belongs in district court, not municipal court, which is more typically the venue of contested parking tickets, disorderly conduct citations and such.The fight over which legal venue is appropriate to hear the case is but the latest development in Peter Fornell’s quest to build a 99-space, automated parking garage on Hyman Avenue.Attorney Lance R. Coté, who represents the neighbors along with attorney Herb Klein, cited a town of Frisco case in his argument for dismissal of the lawsuit in 9th Judicial District Court. In that case, a court agreed that a Frisco Town Council decision in a land-use matter, based on a municipal ordinance, belonged in municipal court.Aspen city attorney John Worcester rejects Coté’s argument in a memorandum to the district court. The Park Place lawsuit stems from a decision that relates to the city’s charter, not a city ordinance, according to Worcester.Fornell and his partners in Hyman Avenue Holdings sued the city, several neighbors of the project and a hearing officer in June after Fornell attempted to put the garage project before voters through a citizen initiative. After Fornell collected enough signatures for the initiative, neighbors responded with a protest against the petition. A hearing officer appointed by the City Council upheld their protest, invalidating the petition on the grounds that some elements of it weren’t legally valid subjects for an initiative.Hyman Avenue Holdings then filed the lawsuit, seeking to overturn the hearing officer’s decision and order the City Council to put the garage project on the ballot.If the suit is dismissed, Fornell and his partners will have “no other remedy to obtain judicial review of the hearing officer’s decision,” since the matter doesn’t belong in municipal court, according to Worcester. The motion to dismiss should be denied and the developers should be allowed to proceed with their complaint in district court, he argued.The City Council narrowly voted to reject Fornell’s project late last year, which led to his petition effort to put the development before voters.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org