Downtown hotel project opponents to appeal judge's ruling
Star-News (Wilmington, NC), 2014-08-04
Aug. 04 --Opponents of a Wilmington hotel deal next to the city's convention center will appeal a judge's June ruling the hotel can move forward.
Mayor Bill Saffo said Monday the appeal could "jeopardize" the city's deal with a Virginia developer planning to build a $33.6 million Embassy Suites downtown.
"We're very disappointed in the appeal by Sotherly and by the resident, Glenn Wells ," Saffo said, referring to Sotherly Hotels Inc. , which owns the Hilton Wilmington Riverside . Earlier this year, attorneys for Sotherly and Wells alleged the city sold riverfront land to the hotel developer below market value, which they contended violated a past court ruling that prohibited the use of public funds to subsidize the hotel.
On June 6 , Superior Court Judge Paul Jones issued an order that essentially said the hotel deal complied with a 2006 ruling he signed that ended a nearly yearlong legal battle over the convention center.
To have the original judge interpret his own decision was a "resounding victory," Saffo said.
Yet on June 20 , Raleigh attorney E.D. Gaskins Jr ., who represents Wells, filed notice that the matter will be appealed to the N.C. Court of Appeals . On June 27 , Wilmington attorney Matthew Davis , who represents Sotherly, also filed a notice of appeal.
Davis was not immediately able to comment on the case Monday. A message left at Gaskins' office was not immediately returned.
Initially, construction on the hotel was expected to begin this summer, with a completion date of August 2015 , according to Harmony Hospitality, the Virginia developer.
Yet Saffo said the appeal could delay construction.
The initial legal challenge already delayed the hotel's progress. The purchase and development agreement said the closing date for the land sale should be no later than March 31 , although the agreement included optional extensions to May 31 and then again to July 31 .
The closing had not occurred when Jones issued a June 6 ruling in favor of the city. "It would have been unreasonable to close before this case was heard and ruled upon," City Attorney Bill Wolak said at the time.
As of Monday, the closing has not occurred, Wolak said. The date is still being considered, he added. He would not comment on whether the closing will continue to be delayed as the ruling is appealed.
Wolak predicted it would be at least at year before a decision could be made in the matter.
Julian March : 343-2099
On Twitter: @julian_march
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