The February One Place city parking deck and Westin Hotel complex is still on hold. Superior Court Judge Andy Cromer said he would likely make a decision on a request by Rocky Scarfone for a temporary restraining order (TRO) by Feb. 16, but no decision has been announced as of March 7.
The lawsuit is over an easement to the back door of Cone Denim Entertainment Center, which owner Scarfone says he needs to stay in business. The City of Greensboro agreed not to start construction on the parking deck until after a decision on the request for a temporary restraining order is made. So in effect there is a temporary restraining order, albeit a voluntary one, until Judge Cromer makes a ruling on the request for a legal one.
The city promised not to start construction but it didn’t promise not to start demolition, and on Wednesday, March 7, D.H. Griffin demolished a small one-story building, formerly a barber shop, behind the Dixie Building on February One Place.
It’s not much progress on a $60 million project, but it is an indication that the city is moving forward as quickly as it can with construction when it has promised not to start construction.
The demolition of the building doesn’t affect the easement that Scarfone owns, but the message the city is sending is unmistakable. The city is committed to the project.
If the TRO is granted, the city will have a couple of options. One would be to settle with Scarfone for something between the $55,000 the city offered for the easement and the $5 million Scarfone says it will cost him if he loses access to the back door. Or, instead of paying Scarfone, the city can – as it has done in other cases – choose to pay an attorney to take the matter to court where the city could lose. In court, regardless of whether the city wins or loses, the length of the court case has a good chance of killing the deal for the Westin Hotel. The agreements to build hotels are not open ended and the lawsuit could easily drag on for years.
It would be interesting if some city councilmember, instead of blindly voting the way they are told, would ask the city staff how much it would cost to redesign the deck to give Scarfone the access to the backdoor that he says he needs. It might be the least expensive option.
Even if Scarfone doesn’t get a TRO, it doesn’t make his lawsuit go away. Scarfone will still be suing the city. The difference is that it will all be about money because, without the TRO, the easement will be gone and the question will be whether or not the city had a right to condemn the easement and how much it has to pay for it.