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Regions Financial lawyer insists Midtown driveway easement is permanent

POSTED: February 11, 2009 11:05 p.m.

A lawyer for Regions Financial Corp. wants a quick resolution in a lawsuit over coveted property in Gainesville’s Midtown district.

Steve Gilliam, the local attorney representing Regions, seeks more than 20 types of documents from developers of a proposed high-rise hotel and office complex to prove progress on the project and show how the defendants plan to argue in trial. Filed Monday, the pre-trial demands give Gainesville City Center LLC 30 days to provide the documents and are an attempt to come to a resolution as soon as possible, Gilliam said.

Regions claims a chain-link fence Gainesville City Center erected on the project site, which is adjacent to the bank property, blocks access to the bank from Bradford Street. That violates a 24-year-old easement for parking areas and driveways granted by the property’s previous owners, Regions contends in the lawsuit filed in January.

The agreement gave perpetual access to Regions property from Bradford Street that would remain despite changes in ownership. The Oct. 18, 1984, agreement states the easement "to the paved parking areas shall expire 10 years from the date hereof."

Yet Regions contends the 10-year expiration date does not apply to driveways leading to the property.

"Everybody I show that deed to agrees with me," Gilliam said.

Although Gilliam previously said he was willing to settle out of court with the developers, he and the attorney for Gainesville City Center LLC, Julius Hulsey, have not been able to come to a resolution.

"They’re not willing to talk," Gilliam said. " But we have agreed on this — we do need as expedited a hearing as possible to get some kind of resolution."

Hulsey was not available for comment Wednesday, but Gilliam said the two attorneys have agreed construction would not begin until the case is resolved.

The bank seeks all documents submitted to planning authorities for land
disturbance and building permits — a direct response to developers’ claims the lawsuit is delaying plans for Midtown’s redevelopment.

"I want to see what they’ve done with respect to having their project approved," Gilliam said. "...We’re liable for damages because of (possibly delaying the project) so I’m saying ‘show me your project; show me you’ve got a project that’s approved.’"

Other documents Gilliam requested pertain to proposed plans and drawings for the development. Those documents could show it is possible to provide access to Regions from Bradford Street or College Avenue, Gilliam said.

Questions over the easement arose when a corporation consisting of two county commissioners, Chairman Tom Oliver and Billy Powell, and the attorney for the Gainesville-Hall County Redevelopment Authority Tread Syfan made plans to purchase the Regions Operations Center.

Oliver has said the group would not close on the property without the easement.



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