RV Park Developer Gets His Day in Court

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June 2, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

The town of Kennewick, Wash., went to court today (May 29) in a $5 million breach of contract lawsuit that alleges city officials reneged on a development agreement allowing the owner of Columbia Park Golf Course to build an RV park near the park entrance. 

Testimony in the 2-year-old lawsuit is expected to begin Monday after a jury is selected to hear the trial before Benton County Superior Court Judge Robert Swisher, according to the Mid Columbia Tri City Herald

Stakes are potentially high for the city, located where the Columbia and Snake rivers merge, as it is not adequately insured to cover an unfavorable verdict. 

Lisa Beaton, city attorney, said terms of the city's insurance policy exclude coverage for a breach of contract claim. 

That means city taxpayers would end up paying any damages if Gary Long Jr. wins his case. The city also may have to pay defense costs. 

Kennewick is a member of the Cities Insurance Association of Washington. Beaton said the insurance has paid for legal costs until now, but she can't be sure it will pay all costs. 

Long alleges he had an exclusive development agreement in his lease with the city signed in 2005 allowing him to replace the driving range with a 67-space RV park and to build a new 6,000-square-foot golf course clubhouse, two gazebos, parking lot and a boat launch. 

The city manages Columbia Park under an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land. The golf course is considered an amenity in the city park through a separate lease between Long and the city. 

Long claims the city reneged on his right to build the RV park by later negotiating with the owner of Tri-River Sports Complex to develop RV facilities elsewhere in the park. 

"(The city) intentionally violated the contract with my client to see if they could get a better deal," said Bob Dunn, a Spokane attorney who represents Long. 

Nicholas Kovarik, another of Long's attorneys, argued in Superior Court in April that the city apparently didn't have a problem with Long's RV park proposal because it did not object when he applied to the Corps of Engineers for a shoreline permit. 

But Michael Tierney, an attorney from Mercer Island representing the city, argued Long failed to renegotiate the lease with the city, which was essential for the project to go ahead. The development agreement and lease were integrated, he said. 

Pretrial motions are scheduled for today, with jury selection and opening statements to start Monday.

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