The sky's the limit

Judge dismisses lawsuit against proposed high-rise condominium

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COEUR d'ALENE - A lawsuit filed to prevent a Colorado company from building a high-rise condominium in downtown Coeur d'Alene was dismissed Tuesday, although the ruling doesn't shut the door on litigation completely.

But the company proposing the project, One Lakeside LLC., said it's pleased with the judge's decision and it's ready to apply for building permits this summer, and break ground on the 14-story building by November.

"Obviously, we're pleased the judge saw it our way," said Greg Hills, principal of the real estate development firm Austin Lawrence Partners proposing to build the retail and residential building at the corner of First Street and Lakeside Avenue. "We're going to keep moving forward, just like we have been."

First District Judge Benjamin Simpson said Tuesday that the group of Coeur d'Alene North Condominium residents, called Coeur d'Alene North Home Owners View Preservation LLC., wasn't personally injured by the proposed building so it didn't have legal standing to file the suit. He did leave in the city of Coeur d'Alene, but said that litigation against the city would have to be pursued after building permits are issued.

Even if litigation is pursued after permits are issued, said attorney Mike Haman, representing the city, the suit doesn't have merit under a takings clause in the court's view. He said he would file a motion for a summary judgment - essentially asking for dismissal - if the case is pursued after permits are issued.

"He made it clear he didn't see a takings claim, in my opinion," Haman said of the judge's oral ruling. "I don't think Judge Simpson sees a claim here."

Jim Crowe, an attorney who filed the suit along with attorney Scott Reed, said the issue is far from settled. He said the suit could be filed against the Colorado company under an individual condo owner's name - instead of the LLC - that would fall under personal injury and give it legal standing in court.

Whether that's the route the plaintiffs take hasn't been decided, he said, but he hoped it was the direction they go. He couldn't comment further on the pending litigation, and Reed said he didn't have anything else to add.

The proposed building is slated to go where the Mudge building sits today, across the street from the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce. When plans to build the facility were pitched last year, nearby condo neighbors challenged it on grounds that it would greatly affect their views of the lake, block sunlight and reduce property values in excess of $1 million.

However, the city's Design Review Commission approved the 125,000-square-foot, 60-unit luxury apartment building design several months ago because plans for the estimated $20 million project fit under the city's downtown building guidelines. The commission's approval meant the builder was allowed to apply for building permits from the city, but neighbors followed through on a promise they had stated from the beginning and filed a lawsuit to stop it.

Still, the suit hasn't hampered progress on the project, Hills said. Construction should take 18 months once it starts, and the grand opening is planned for June 2, 2015.

"We've been planning to move forward anyway," said Hills, out of Aspen, Colo.

Attorney Doug Marfice, who represents One Lakeside LLC., said if the suit is pursued under a condo owner's name the same outcome would occur. He pointed to the judge's ruling that the complaint didn't fit under a nuisance claim because the project adheres to the city's rules, and the court can't prevent a property owner from using his or her property legally.

"The court has already foreshadowed that," he said. "The outcome is preordained."

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