At 9:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 25, Judge Marlene Hyatt will take up a lawsuit brought by the Pack heirs against developer Stewart Coleman and Buncombe County over the piece of public parkland sold to Coleman by the county in 2006. Opponents of Coleman’s proposed Parkside project are promising to show up in force.
The lawsuit asserts that when George Pack donated the land to the county in 1900, the deed specified that it would remain in public use forever and, if ever sold, would revert to the family’s ownership. The county claims a later, second deed removed those stipulations. The Pack family’s attorney, Joe Ferikes, has asked for a summary judgment by Hyatt, which means the matter may be decided on Monday.
After a closed session on July 25, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners announced they would delay any action on the issue until after the summary judgment. Coleman has contributed to the campaigns of both commissioner Bill Stanley and Chair Nathan Ramsey.
— David Forbes, staff writer
This Monday, August 25, starting at 9:30 a.m., the lawsuit brought by the descendants of George W. Pack against Buncombe County and Stewart Coleman alleging that the sale of the Parkside parcel should be overturned will be heard on the 7th floor of Buncombe County Courthouse before Judge Marlene Hyatt. The Packs’ attorney, Joe Ferikes, has asked for summary judgement in the case—and if Judge Hyatt rules in his favor on Monday, the now-infamous piece of parkland under the magnolia tree in front of Asheville’s City Hall will be returned to the people and the controversy will be ended.
If she rules any other way, we’ll need to pack City Hall on Tuesday to insist Council use eminent domain to get our parkland back.
Parkside opponents are strongly encouraged to attend the lawsuit hearing on Monday. Mr. Ferikes told Magnolia watchers Lady Passion and Clare Hanrahan today that the more of us pack the courtroom that day, the more likely it is the judge will decide to rule in the Packs’ favor then and there rather than take the “easy way out” and send the case to trial (which would probably not begin till November or December—after the county commissioners’ election).
Wear your “Save the Magnolia” tee-shirt or a “Stop Parkside” sticker! We’ll meet and rally under the Magnolia Tree at 9 a.m. Monday, then proceed to the courtroom; or you can come to the courthouse whenever you’re able (but seats may be scarce).
Ferikes is confident the law will be on his side. In fact, the county clearly had its own doubts about its right to sell the public parkland to a private developer, since it sold Parkside to Mr. Coleman under a non-warranty, or “quitclaim,” deed. Ferikes and other real-estate experts say this is the weakest form of deed—a kind of “buyer-beware” document that offers the purchaser no guarantee that the seller’s transfer of title is valid or free of encumbrances … and no money back should the sale be ruled invalid. It’s typically used only by family members transferring property among themselves. If Coleman were allowed to build Parkside, the individual buyers of its $900,000 condos would also be entitled to nothing more than flimsy quitclaim deeds on their homes.
We’ve also learned that the location of our present-day courthouse and City Hall is due to Pack’s condition in his 1901 deed that the land he gave the county would revert to his heirs if the county ever sold it or built a jail on it. A 1927 newspaper article archived in the Pack Memorial Library notes that officials determined that the Pack deed prevented them from putting the new buildings on the land he donated, so they built them on an annexed piece of property instead.
If the judge should rule against the Pack heirs’ plea for summary judgement, Parkside opponents will need to show up en masse at the City Council meeting at 5 p.m. the following day, Tuesday, August 26, to urge council to act swiftly to acquire the property through eminent domain. Thanks to the success of our petition drive and our resolute direct actions, council now probably has the votes to pass eminent domain on Parkside, inside sources tell us. But councilmembers will need their backbones reinforced by a large showing of citizens expressing their support for this needful use of government power to protect public property rights. Eminent domain would restore our public parkland to the public and compensate Mr. Coleman fairly and impartially (which is more than he would get if the court revokes his quitclaim deed).