Edens, the developer of the Shops at Stonefield, has filed a brief in Charlottesville Circuit Court asking a judge to overturn a ruling by the City Council that the developer broke the conditions of a city-issued erosion and sediment control plan.
“The city’s decision is wrong, arbitrary and capricious, without factual support, improper, and contrary to law, and should be reversed,” wrote Jason C. Hicks, an attorney with the firm Womble, Caryle, Sandridge and Rice.
Stonefield, formerly known as Albemarle Place, is being built in Albemarle County on the western side of U.S. 29, but construction on the 65-acre site will alter how water flows into city limits on the eastern side.
That requires Edens to file an erosion and sediment control plan with the Charlottesville Department of Neighborhood Development Services. As part of its overall stormwater management plan,
Edens placed a new 72-inch pipe underneath U.S. 29 to carry a larger flow of water from the development. The unnamed stream on the property, a tributary of Meadow Creek, is being covered by the development.
Before it gets to Meadow Creek, the water passes through a drainage channel on land owned by the Great Eastern Management Co., the U.S. Postal Service and the Pepsi-Cola bottling facility.
The city claims that a condition of the permit required the 72-inch pipe to remain closed until Edens placed rocks known as riprap on the banks of the drainage channel in order to slow down the flow of stormwater.
In April, Edens says it completed work on the riprap and subsequently opened the new pipe on May 27.
On June 1, the city demanded the pipe be closed because Jim Tolbert, director of Neighborhood Development Services, said riprap had not been placed everywhere required, specifically on property owned by Great Eastern.
However, Edens’ attorney argues the firm complied with the terms of the plan. The appeal points to a Nov. 14 letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that said it was Edens’ responsibility to ask for permission for access to all of the property owners.
“No such activities will be required if permission from the downstream property owners is not granted in writing,” read the Corps’ letter.
The appeal claims that Edens officials met with Great Eastern officials to pay for additional riprap on their land, but said those negotiations were not successful because Great Eastern wanted $1 million worth of additional mitigations near its Seminole Square shopping center.
“Threatening to file a lawsuit against Albemarle Place, however, [Great Eastern] instead demanded, among other things, that Albemarle Place pay for the costs of substantial improvements unrelated to the Stonefield project and solely to benefit future redevelopment and expansion of the Seminole property,” Hicks wrote.
After Edens appealed the city’s decision, the Charlottesville Planning Commission heard an appeal on July 10, but Hicks said the process was faulty.
“[The commission] took no actual evidence or testimony, and its brief discussion did not focus upon issues regarding the violation or the E&S plan asserted by Mr. Tolbert,” Hicks wrote.
An attorney for Great Eastern told the commission that Edens’ stormwater management plan was not adequate to prevent massive flooding after abnormally heavy rainfall. Hicks said that claim was unsubstantiated and false.
The City Council upheld the commission’s determination on July 23. Hicks said their action was not legally sound.
“One or more City Council members made clear that the resolution was being adopted as a means by which to halt some perceived but unspecified wrongdoing on Albemarle Place’s part with respect to stormwater and possible flooding,” Hicks wrote. “[It was] urged by the Seminole Property Owner’s counsel, and [would] effectively rescind Albemarle Place’s permit unless and until
Albemarle Place could somehow satisfy the Seminole Property Owner’s demands.”
City Attorney Craig Brown said the city has yet to file its response with the court.