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Attorney calls motion to add officials to lawsuit ‘ridiculous’

Hall commissioners linked to dispute over access to planned Midtown development

POSTED: February 26, 2009 12:33 a.m.

The attorney for the bank suing Gainesville City Center over access rights through the developer’s planned hotel and office complex in midtown Gainesville says a motion to add two elected officials to the case is "absolutely ridiculous and totally unfounded."

Steve Gilliam, the local attorney representing Regions Financial Corp., also is unmoved by Gainesville City Center attorney Julius Hulsey’s claim that the lawsuit against the developers is "abusive litigation." He said he has no plans to heed Hulsey’s call to dismiss the suit.

The bank and the developers are in a legal battle over the wording of a 25-year-old deed that granted Bradford Street access to the Regions Operations Center through the former Town View Plaza property that Gainesville City Center now owns.

The bank filed suit last month when the developers put up a fence between their property and the bank’s.

Hulsey filed an answer to the lawsuit Friday along with a motion that would add Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver, Commissioner Billy Powell and Tread Syfan, an attorney for the Gainesville-Hall Redevelopment Authority, to the list of plaintiffs in the suit. Hulsey has asked a judge to add the three to the suit because they stand to benefit from the easements, he said.

The three men formed a limited liability corporation called City View Investments last year and have a contract to purchase the Regions Operations Center property. Oliver has said they have no interest in purchasing the bank property without the easements.

Gilliam, who said he has not yet read the documents filed in court Friday, said he does not know why a judge would grant Hulsey’s motion. He said the motion was designed to put heat on Oliver, Powell and Syfan to make them walk away from the land deal.

"This is mind-boggling all the stuff that keeps coming out," Gilliam said. "Adding Tread, adding Billy, adding Tom has nothing to do with a court making a determination of whether those easements are still valid."

Gilliam also balked at Hulsey’s letter that calls for the dismissal of the lawsuit and threatens a countersuit of "abusive litigation"

"We’re asking the court to determine whether or not those easements are valid. That’s not abusive," Gilliam said. "We say they’re valid; he says they’re not valid. We can’t agree on it; a judge will decide."

In fact, Gilliam said he also is considering his own claim of "abusive litigation" in response to Hulsey’s motion to add City View Investments to the list of plaintiffs in the case.

The developers claim the easement in question expired in 1994 and back their claims up with a statement signed by the former property owner who granted the easement to the bank when it was First National Bank in 1984.

However, the bank points to the deed and claims that parking easements, not driveway easements, have expired.

The driveway easements are perpetual, Gilliam said, and Gainesville City Center violated them by putting up a fence between the planned development and the Regions Operation Center last month, according to the bank’s complaint filed in January.



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