Town gains support from fellow municipalities in its appeal of airport litigation judgment
There may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
The Town of Mammoth Lakes may yet wriggle out of a $30 million judgment which went against the municipality in 2008.
At that time, Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (MLLA), aka the Hot Creek developers, successfully sued the Town for breach of a development agreement.
The Town promptly appealed the judgment.
At the Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting Wednesday, Town Attorney Peter Tracy announced that the League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties have submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Appeals Court on the Town’s behalf.
Tracy believes this show of support will weigh a lot in the ultimate decision of the Court of Appeals.
“Instead of [seeing this as] a gunfight between a city and a developer, the Court will recognize this has statewide implications,” said Tracy.
A brief synopsis
Tracy said there was a case in ‘70s where a developer was proceeding along with a project until the municipality stepped in and changed its codes in midstream, effectively derailing the project.
This led to the passage of a statute by the California legislature regulating Development Agreements. Tracy said the statute benefited developers in that it “froze” zoning once a D.A. had been signed.
It also benefited governmental entities, allowing them to wrangle certain guarantees and benefits from the developer in exchange.,
*Ah, so this is where the concept of ‘community benefits’ must stem from.
In our case, contends Tracy, a development agreement was signed and though the developer had laid out informal project plans, he never actually filed a development application.
Well actually, said Tracy, correcting himself, an application was filed and then promptly withdrawn.
Hot Creek took the position that the D.A. was a formal contract and that it never filed a development application because it assumed the Town would reject it.
“Anticipatory breach of contract,” opined Tracy.
The Town contends that since Council never had a chance to vote on anything, how could there have been a breach?
Any opinions proffered by Staff to the applicant don’t count.
“Staffers,” said Tracy, “don’t make policy.”
Expect an Appeals Court decision later this summer.