Lawyer Richard Mays Sr. sued the Little Rock Technology Park Authority in Pulaski County Circuit Court on Thursday, saying the authority's intent to take his property by eminent domain is "an illegal exercise of power."
The tech park board needs Mays' three-story office building at 415 Main St. as part of its first phase of property acquisition for the planned $100 million technology park downtown.
The group offered Mays $845,000 on Nov. 2 for the roughly 10,000-square-foot office building and gave him two weeks to accept, reject or counter the offer. The offer was the value attached to the property in an October appraisal obtained by Mays. The tech park hired its own appraiser, who came up with a value of $670,000.
In addition to filing the lawsuit, Mays on Thursday also sent a letter to tech park board treasurer Dickson Flake with a counteroffer of $1.2 million.
"As you must understand, I have been practicing law at 415 Main Street for more than thirty-one years and find it difficult to contemplate relocating," Mays said in the letter to Flake. "I have offered to give the Authority a long term lease in an attempt to accommodate its interest, but the Authority has shown no interest in such an arrangement."
Mays' property is a small part of the tech park's Phase 1 land grab. The tech park already has struck a deal with companies owned by financier Warren Stephens to buy Five Main Place at 421 Main St., the Exchange Bank Annex at 417 Main St., what is known as the old Stephens building at 114 E. Capitol Ave., and three parking lots for $11.6 million.
Mays gave the board until Wednesday to consider the counteroffer. He said he has a previous offer from another interested buyer for $1.2 million and an opinion from another appraiser that lists the current market value at $1.2 million.
Earlier this week, Mays asked the board to extend negotiations until the end of the week, and the board gave him the extra time. The tech park board had its attorney prepare a condemnation suit against Mays with plans to file it if the parties couldn't agree on a price.
Mays said Thursday he had seen the tech park board's prepared lawsuit. It has not been filed.
Tech park Executive Director Brent Birch referred questions about the lawsuit to the board's chairman, Mary Good. When contacted Thursday, Good said, "I'm not going to comment because I haven't seen it."
John Baker of Mitchell Williams, an attorney for the tech park board, said: "Now that litigation has commenced and as is our practice when litigation has commenced, we have no comment."
In the lawsuit, Mays references Act 1045 of 2007, The Research Park Authority Act, which he says violates the state's constitution by giving the tech park group "an improper delegation of the power of eminent domain from the state of Arkansas to the City of Little Rock and the [Little Rock Technology Park Authority]."
The majority of members of the tech park board, including Good and Flake, have maintained the tech park is a "public use" property.
"Just because they say it is a public purpose [property] does not make it so," Mays said. "That's a judicial determination. The facts still have to be tested in court to see if the authority is applying the principle of law correctly."
When asked why he pre-empted the tech park board's condemnation suit with a complaint of his own, Mays said, "They pretty much assume they have the right to take my property, and they want to talk about value, whether they're compensating me fairly.
"My position is that I'd rather have a discussion about their right to take [it] before we start talking about value. That's a judicial determination."
Mays said he is open to further discussions about price, even as the lawsuit moves through the court system.
Mays also notes in the lawsuit that the tech park facilities will "be exempt from all local and municipal taxes."
"They're getting ready to take the property off the tax rolls. That impacts every citizen," Mays said.
He estimated his property taxes to be about $10,000 per year.
The lawsuit also lists Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and the city of Little Rock as defendants.
"I wanted to eliminate any question about the court's jurisdiction and power to act," said Mays, a former Arkansas Supreme Court justice. "I thought it would be more appropriate to make sure all the parties were before the court that could be affected by its ruling."
The complaint listed his daughter and son, Tiffany Mays O'Guinn and Richard L. Mays Jr., as legal representation. They also practice with Mays at the Main Street office.
Business on 11/20/2015
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