‘Will of the People’ Sparks Lawsuit

BLYTHEWOOD – Following the Planning Commission’s 3-2 vote on Nov. 9 to reject a site plan for Prestwick Development’s low-income housing project, The Pointe, on Main Street in downtown Blythewood, Prestwick CEO Jody Tucker told The Voice that he had no interest in seeking legal remedy.

But just 14 days later, on Nov. 23, Prestwick’s attorneys filed a legal action in the 5th Circuit Court against the Town and the Planning Commission asking the Court to reverse the Commission’s decision , to mandate its members to approve the development plan and to require the Town to pay attorney’s fees, court costs and such other relief as the court deems just.

On Nov. 30, Prestwick’s attorneys, Eppes & Plumblee, of Greenville, filed an amended complaint similar to the original complaint but with stronger language.

Planning Commissioner Don Sanders cited “the will of the people” as the reason for not approving the plan. But Prestwick said in its complaint that the Commission’s rejection of the development plan based upon “the will of the people” serves as grounds for the appeal. Prestwick asked the Court to find that the Planning Commission is exceeding its authority and acting in contravention of the law by basing its rejection on the “will of the people.”

“Notwithstanding the fact that the plan submitted by Plaintiff complied with all requirements of all state and local laws, regulations and ordinances, including but not limited to all building code requirements, traffic requirements and all storm-water management requirements and the City’s Comprehensive Plan,” the complaint states, “the Commission, by a three-to-two vote, refused to approve the plan.”

“When Prestwick’s representative asked the Commission why the plan was being rejected,” the complaint continues, “the members of the Commission voting to reject the plan said that it was the ‘will of the people.’ No other reason was given for rejecting the plan.”

Following the Nov. 9 meeting, Prestwick CEO Jody Tucker told The Voice he wanted the Town of Blythewood to follow its ordinances and vote based on (zoning) they’ve already approved for the site.

“The City of Blythewood needs to let us know if that was a valid vote. If it wasn’t, then we’ll be back at the December Planning Commission meeting for another vote under the terms of what the law allows versus the will of the people,” Tucker said.

But a Town official, who was not authorized to talk about the lawsuit and asked to remain anonymous, said the Planning Commission will now probably not convene for its regular December meeting while the lawsuit runs its course.

In addition to having its site plan approved by the Planning Commission, Prestwick Development will still have to submit its plans to the Town’s Board of Architectural Review for approval of 13 variances and for a certificate of appropriateness, The Town’s Planning Consultant Michael Criss said.

“The BAR has complete authority over the building’s appearance,” Criss told The Voice. “But that can’t happen until the site plan has been approved by the Planning Commission.”

Town Attorney Jim Meggs and Town Council discussed the lawsuit in executive session during Council’s meeting on Monday evening, but Ross said the meeting was informational only and that no vote was taken when Council came out of the closed meeting.

The Town has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.

None of the Town officials contacted by The Voice would comment on the record about the lawsuit, and no one at Prestwick Development’s Atlanta office had returned The Voice’s phone calls at press time.


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