Published: Mar 13, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Mar 12, 2012 05:42 PM
Cary accuses Cary Park developers of ‘conspiracy’
Cary Park developers sue for return of $6M; illegal school fees at issue.
The town of Cary has responded forcefully to a lawsuit by subdivision developers, accusing the companies of a civil conspiracy against the town, among other arguments. The town alleged late last month that the companies behind Cary Park essentially lured Cary government into an agreement, worth millions of dollars, that the developers now are suing to change.The town has moved on several grounds to dismiss the case, arguing that the developers, after making and benefitting from an agreement with the town, now are seeking to break the contract. The developers’ attempt to exit an agreement to fund a local school is part of a “covert scheme to deceive and defraud the Town and its citizens,” Cary’s legal filling claims.On the other hand, the plaintiffs argue that they are seeking relief from an illegal agreement they say the town forced upon them. Their agreement to fund a local school was legally unsound, they argue, because it amounted to an illegal tax that Cary wasn’t allowed to assess. The developers are seeking to recover $6 million. plus interest, from the town or the Wake County School System.At the heart of the case is a now-repealed set of Cary laws that asked developers to fund new seats for students to make up for their projects’ impacts on local schools. In a previous lawsuit, the developers of the Cameron Pond area won back about $800,000 when the state Court of Appeals agreed that those rules “illegally shifted the burden of paying for public education to the subdivision builder-plaintiffs.”The current case is “very early” in its development, according to Town Attorney Chris Simpson. Cary already has made several defensive and counter-offensive arguments, including many technical legal points, but the most eye-grabbing section of its early response is the town’s portrayal of the developers.Cary argues that Hearthstone, a national company, and its subsidiaries dishonestly pursued the town’s stamp of approval for a 2700-home project. The developers, including Roger Perry, had for years built a relationship with Cary, the filing states. The developers’ offer to fund a school, the town argues, appeared to be a mutually beneficial, good-faith effort.Now “the plaintiffs seek to recast their previous image as highly sophisticated and knowledgeable developers, remake their agreement with the town, recover funds they contributed toward a school ($6,000,000) and deprive their Cary Park home-buyers of school seats at Mills Park Elementary School,” wrote Simpson in an email last week.For their part, Panther-Creek Raleigh and its co-plaintiff, Cary Park Associates, argue that the town pressured them into the deal. Then-mayor Glen Lang told the developers that the project wouldn’t proceed unless it provided for schools, according to the plaintiffs. The developers argue that Cary was not authorized by state law to manage the funding and construction of schools, and they say that the Wake County Board of Education also was wrong to take the money.According to the Cary filing, the developers “waited, watched and enjoyed” while the town paid $5.2 million for the school site, and millions more on related improvements, while the Wake County school system put in about $22.8 million for construction.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary