Attorney/Developer And Attorney/Mayor Headed To Court In Controversial Walden Supermarket Case
Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - by Judy Frank
The controversial developer/landowner/attorney at the center of a proposal to build a 43,000-square-foot supermarket in the heart of Walden has taken his battle to Hamilton County Chancery Court.
John Anderson, in a 17-page petition filed Tuesday, is asking that the town be prohibited from reversing the 2019 rezoning of the former Lines Orchids property on the grounds that it violated state law and zoning regulations.
The petition was filed just hours before Walden’s town council was scheduled to consider a resolution which affirmed that the rezoning ordinance violated both the community’s zoning ordinance and state law, and should therefore be invalidated.
Walden Mayor Lee Davis, a longtime opponent of the proposed development, said the town has delayed that discussion until its February meeting, after the scheduled Jan.
27 hearing on attorney Anderson’s petition.
Mayor Davis said, “This is not about Mr. Anderson and his grocery store. It’s about whether the town should deviate from its land use plan . . . and zoning regulations.”
The resolution currently before the Walden council would not overturn the 2019 rezoning, he said. Instead, it spells out how the town intends to handle the matter in the future.
“The town has a right to express what our policies are,” Mayor Davis said.
The petition came as a surprise, he said, since attorney Anderson did not notify either the town or the plaintiffs of the lawsuit against the development.
“Mr. Anderson plays dirty,” he said. “He did not contact plaintiffs’ attorney (Don) Aho at all, and he waited until he was already in the courthouse to call our attorney and tell him.”
On Oct. 8, 2019, Walden council members voted 2-1 to approve a request from LOP, LLC that they rezone a 15-acre tract of commercial land in the heart of the town to village commercial.
The VC-1 (Village Center) zoning designation cleared the way for LOP’s public face – attorney Anderson, who revealed during public meetings that he owns 80 percent of the Lines property – to transform the property into a combination grocery, office, retail and fuel center complex.
In his Chancery Court petition, attorney Anderson argued that that LLC LOP will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage “if the board is permitted to pass Resolution 544 . . . because it would no longer be able to continue development of the Walden Town Center.”
“LOP has no adequate remedy at law other than the issuance of a writ of mandamus to compel Walden to uphold its obligations to support its ordinances and laws, including Ordinance 331,” he declared.
The writ of mandamus, he continued, should “require the board to uphold Ordinance 331, not pass 544, and . . . .protect the vested rights of LOP by allowing development of Walden Town Center . . . until the pending lawsuit is concluded.”
Attorney Anderson cited a variety of legal arguments for preventing the town from invalidating the Lines Orchids rezoning, including:
“The board does not have authority to pass Resolution 544, which declares Ordinance 331 as arbitrary and passed in error . . .
· Because it is against Tennessee law to amend a zoning ordinance without following the proper (Tennessee Code) procedure;
· Because the board owes a fiduciary duty to uphold Ordinance 331 for the benefit of those whose rights vested under Ordinance 331, and;
· Because a lawsuit is presently pending before Bradley County Circuit Court Judge Mike Sharp regarding the issue of whether Ordinance 331 was lawfully passed.
Further, he argued, “The board intends to pass resolution 544 for the sole purpose of preventing development of the Walden Town Center, in direct violation of LOP’s vested rights, and improperly voiding Ordinance 331.”