Maumelle, Team Summit to meet over $31,000 land use settlement

Jess Holt, a Maumelle City Council Member, walks through a park facility building on Crystal Hill Road in Maymelle during an open tour of the building on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
Jess Holt, a Maumelle City Council Member, walks through a park facility building on Crystal Hill Road in Maymelle during an open tour of the building on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Maumelle's city attorney will meet with Team Summit's owner this week to discuss a $31,443.93 settlement over the event company's use of city land along the Arkansas River, both parties said Monday.

The meeting comes about four weeks after the Maumelle City Council voted to allow Mayor Caleb Norris to seek the settlement figure-- a delay sparked in part by a hospitalization, said Team Summit owner Gloria Timmons, who goes by her last name. Timmons said she had back surgery to resolve an issue she described as "two years in the making."

"I got where I couldn't even walk, hardly," she said. "But it's so much better."

The property in question is Park on the River, 11903 Crystal Hill Road. Boasting waterfront access and views, the venue is often used for weddings and other events.

Timmons said she called City Attorney Andrew Thornton after speaking with the Democrat-Gazette on Monday and asked him to send her the settlement agreement.

According to Thornton, the city sent her the proposed settlement on Jan. 31., nine days after the council authorized the mayor to pursue the deal.

"I knew she was in the hospital," he said. "She probably just missed my last email."

The settlement figure includes $30,289.81 for a period of roughly 18 months -- from March 2019 to November 2020 -- in which Team Summit leased Park on the River under contract but did not receive any invoices. It also includes $1,154.12 for its continued use of the property through March 2023. The money would be due within 90 days of signing the settlement, Thornton has said.

Norris has previously said that Team Summit stopped receiving invoices and was able to continue holding functions at Park on the River after their contract ended due to issues that included a problematic billing system, the pandemic and forgetfulness. He has also said that at least some of the blame for the unpaid rent "falls on my shoulders."

On Monday, the mayor said he is letting Thornton handle the negotiations with Team Summit.

The city attorney presented the settlement recommendation at a Jan. 22 City Council meeting. That night, the council voted 5-2 in favor of the resolution, with Ward 1 council member Steve Mosley and Ward 4 council member Jess Holt voting against it. Chad Gardner wasn't present for the meeting.

To determine how much in "unpaid rent" the city should ask for, the council asked Thornton last November to get revenue figures from Team Summit for the time it wasn't charged. Team Summit emailed the information on the morning of Jan. 2.

Using the company's figures, Thornton calculated his recommendation for the period during which it was under contract using the formula in the agreement the company signed in 2015. Under that contract, Team Summit agreed to pay the city $1,000 per month and 25% of the net revenue -- which includes all expenses incurred, including the rent, "of all venue rental sold by [Team Summit] at the property." The lease agreement also stated the contract would not continue after it expired in November 2020 unless the City Council explicitly authorized it, according to Thornton.

Calculating recommendations for the period between December 2020 and March 2023 was more difficult because it wasn't under contract, he said. He recommended seeking compensation for the company's use of the property than through an "unjust enrichment" claim, which covers situations outside of formal contracts or agreements but in which one party "obtained a benefit that they're not entitled to lawfully and they should be required to pay restitution to the other party." Using that method, the attorney considered the number of days Team Summit used the site during that period and applied the 2015 agreement's rent formula. Team Summit used Park on the River for roughly 19 days during that period due in large part to covid restrictions and requirements.

Mosley, who opposed the total that Thornton recommended, has said Maumelle ought to instead pursue compensation as if Team Summit remained under contract throughout the roughly 28 months between the end of the 2015 agreement and the latest, month-to-month one, which was signed in April and is set to expire in September. Maumelle Director of Finance Beatriz Sousa determined that if the contract had been in effect throughout that period, the company would have been charged about $68,000.

"I do feel like the city and Team Summit acted as if the contract was still in force," Mosley said during the Jan. 22 meeting. "The city continued to refer anybody that was interested in renting that facility to Team Summit, just as it had been before. It really wasn't offered to the public, to anybody else."

According to Thornton, Timmons has said that "she might have some proposed changes to some of the wording" in the final settlement, but the agreement will ultimately have to retain three elements approved by the City Council: it must settle the claims, the amount has to be "$31,000 and change," and it has to be paid within 90 days of execution.

Timmons declined to say Monday whether she would agree to the settlement, as she hadn't yet read over the document.

"I'm going to do whatever we agree that's right," she said. "I just want to do what's right."

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