Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Family Sues Metro for Va. Square Death — “A family has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), claiming negligence in the death of a man who lay down on the tracks at the Virginia Square rail station in July 2017.” [NBC Washington]

Jury Duty Process Starting Soon — “The Arlington Circuit Court… will soon begin its annual juror qualification process. Juror questionnaires will be mailed in early August to randomly selected residents of Arlington County and Falls Church City.” [Arlington County]

Tech Company Relocating to Arlington — “Still fresh off of raising millions in venture capital funding, Amify Inc. is leaving Alexandria for a larger space in Arlington just a few blocks from Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters. The company, which markets, sells and ships products for other companies on Amazon, has signed a three-year lease with JBG Smith Properties to take over the Crystal City space that was last rented by Trustify Inc., an embattled tech company that’s now in bankruptcy.” [Washington Business Journal]

Plaque Proposed for Wilson School — “Gone but not forgotten. That’s the hope of historic-preservation advocates when it comes to the Wilson School in Rosslyn… Plans for an historic marker noting the school’s provenance are wending their way through the county government’s approval process.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Exec Tapped as Accenture CEO — “Accenture Inc.’s board of directors has promoted Julie Sweet, a Greater Washington executive who now serves as the company’s North American CEO, to the top job of global chief executive effective Sept. 1. Her ascension makes Sweet, based in Arlington County, the 34th female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Update on Flooded Commuter Routes — “After time-consuming repairs, the District Department of Transportation reopened Canal Road between Reservoir and Foxhall roads late Monday morning…. In McLean, a rain-swollen [Pimmit] Run undermined a large section of Kirby Road. VDOT said the work to repair the road and embankment will take weeks.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by John Sullivan

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Morning Notes

Arlington County Suing Opioid Makers — “The Arlington County Board has emulated nearly two dozen other Virginia localities in taking to court a large number of opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers, including some of the biggest names in the health-care industry.” [InsideNova]

HQ2 Affordable Housing Funds Going to Loudoun? — “When Virginia officials promised $75 million over five years for affordable housing in the wake of Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters announcement, Arlington officials assumed that those dollars would be split between the county and neighboring Alexandria. They were not thrilled to find out other localities might get a piece.” [Washington Business Journal]

Pedestrian Struck in CVS Parking Lot — “Police and medics are on scene of an elderly pedestrian struck by a car in the CVS parking lot on the 6400 block of Williamsburg Blvd. The victim reportedly suffered a broken bone and is being transported to the hospital.” [Twitter]

Early Video of Nauck House Fire — Video posted to Facebook shows the scene as firefighters start to arrive at yesterday’s house fire in the Nauck neighborhood, near the W&OD Trail. [Statter 911]

Discussing Nightlife Safety — “‘A Conversation about Nightlife Safety’ will take place on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m… The event will feature panelists from various Arlington County departments speaking about how they collaborated to build trusting relationships with restaurant staff and improve safety.” [Arlington County]

What’s in a Name? — At the Pentagon City mall, Panda Tea House is now bustling where Kokee Tea struggled last year. Was it the name change, or the addition of Thai rolled ice cream to the menu? [Twitter]

Photo courtesy @eugeneksoh

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Morning Notes

Amazon Talking to Unions — “Amazon.com Inc., JBG Smith Properties Inc. and union representatives in the D.C. region have met a few times in the last six weeks to discuss benefits and wages for the workers who will build HQ2 in Pentagon City.” [Washington Business Journal]

Changes Coming to Arlandria? — “For decades, developers have eyed Arlandria, the working-class neighborhood near Reagan National Airport where a transplanted Hispanic culture flourishes amid Northern Virginia’s upscale condominiums… Now, crime is down, the economy is humming, and Amazon is moving in virtually next door, with plans to hire thousands of well-paid workers, who’ll be in search of easy commutes.” [Washington Post]

Local Strategist Sued by U.S. Rep Raising Funds — Political strategist and Arlington resident Liz Mair is being sued by Rep. Devin Nunes, in a bizarre defamation suit that also names Twitter and two parody Twitter accounts as defendants. Mair is raising money for her legal defense. [Donorbox, Twitter]

Op-Ed: Nix Arlington Arts Cuts — “If the 2020 budget that Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz submitted to the County Board is implemented, it will prove to be devastating to the Arlington arts community.” [Washington Post]

Arlingtonians Help Save Bird — A pair of Arlington residents, including former Arlington Outdoor Lab executive director Neil Heinekamp, “came to the rescue of a distressed bird” found on a nature trail in The Villages, Florida.  [InsideNova]

Kitchen Fire in N. Arlington High Rise — “Units called to 4300 blk of Lorcom Lane for oven fire on 6th floor of a residential high rise. Fire is out with minor extension to surrounding cabinets. Crews working to ventilate smoke and scaling back response.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Halal Butchery Controversy Continues — “Letter-writer compares proposed halal butchery in Alexandria to *slave auctions*: this is the same brutality…’ Even by the standards of Alexandria micro-controversies, the rhetoric around this thing is remarkable.” [Alexandria Times, Twitter]

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The backers of a lawsuit seeking to preserve the name of Washington-Lee High School are working to keep their legal challenge alive, appealing the matter to a higher court after a judge previously struck down the suit on procedural grounds.

Three current W-L students are hoping to block the Arlington School Board’s decision to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the building, arguing that the Board didn’t follow its own stated policies for renaming the building and ignored the community’s opposition to the switch. The Board first kicked off a process to consider a name change in August 2017, in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville and a nationwide reconsideration of the meaning of Confederate symbols.

Arlington County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman ruled in December that the students were barking up the wrong tree, noting that the Board broadly followed the community engagement process it laid out for the name change, and that state law doesn’t even bind school officials to follow that process to the letter, in the first place.

But the students, who are backed by a group of the school’s alumni working feverishly to preserve W-L’s name, were undeterred. Their attorney, Jonathon Moseley, told ARLnow that he’ll be appealing Newman’s ruling, even though the Board already voted last month to rename the school as “Washington-Liberty HS.”

“The judge took into account that [the School Board] didn’t follow all of their own procedures for the renaming, but he said it didn’t matter that they didn’t,” Moseley said. “I don’t like that idea, and I think it’s a pretty important issue that the courts need to address.”

Moseley expects that the appeal will head to Virginia’s Court of Appeals, rather than the state’s Supreme Court, though he’s still waiting on judges to sort out the details. He filed his notice of appeal in circuit court on Jan. 30.

Initially, Moseley had planned to simply amend his original complaint. Even though Newman struck down the students’ initial legal arguments, he gave Moseley until Jan. 9 to file revised arguments instead.

Court documents show that he missed that deadline, asking instead for Newman to issue a written explanation for why he blocked Moseley’s previous efforts and more time to consider next steps.

“I wanted more information about the judge was thinking,” Moseley said. “If there were no set of facts we could allege that showed the Board violated the rules, there’s nothing I could’ve added that would’ve been any different.”

But attorneys for the School Board pointed out in a motion that that request came “on the eve of the School Board’s vote on a new name for Washington-Lee High School” on Jan. 10, arguing it was “nothing more than a delay tactic.”

Similarly, Board attorney John Cafferky argued that Moseley “failed to articulate any legal authority” for a delay, urging Newman to toss out the case.

The judge proved to be sympathetic to those arguments. He ruled against Moseley’s motion in a Jan. 25 hearing, reasoning that the students missed their chance to file any revised claims and that the court no longer has jurisdiction over the matter.

That’s forced Moseley to appeal the dispute to a higher court instead, which could drag out the proceedings for months yet. He plans to have a brief ready supporting his appeal within the next 90 days, then the court will need to decide whether to take the case.

“It could be a year to a year-and-a half project if the appeals court decides it’s even going to look into that at all,” Moseley said. “They can do what they want.”

In the meantime, the school system is moving ahead with putting the building’s new name in place. Officials hope to have everything from signage to sports uniforms changed to reflect the new “Washington-Liberty” name in time for the 2019-2020 school year to start up in September.

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Arlington officials could soon be headed to court to claw back $200,000 the county handed over as part of a since-canceled agreement to buy a two-acre property in Fairfax County.

The County Board agreed back in 2016 to buy several parcels of land along the 6700 block of Electronic Drive in Springfield, with plans to use the property as space for a new maintenance facility for its Arlington Transit buses.

But the Board decided to back away from the $4.65-million land deal late last year, after discovering that the county would have enough space for bus maintenance at another property officials bought in Nauck last summer. Not only did the Board hope to avoid operating a facility outside Arlington, but members expected the move would save the county as much as $10.5 million initially and roughly $900,000 in maintenance costs each year.

Yet the process could come with its own expenses. The Board voted unanimously last week to authorize county attorneys to pursue legal action against the property’s owner, Shirley Investors, LLC, to recover a $200,000 deposit the county sent to the company before the sale was finalized.

Deputy county attorney MinhChau Corr told ARLnow that she couldn’t discuss the details of the case, but that action by the Board does not mean a lawsuit pitting the county against the property owner is a certainty. But Corr did say it’s a sign that negotiations have become acrimonious enough that the county could pursue such a step in the near future.

“There’s some level of conflict that we anticipate could go to litigation,” Corr said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re 100 percent committed. The two sides could work something out before next month’s Board meeting, this just avoids us having to wait until then to ask for permission to file something.”

County court records don’t show any case involving Shirley Investors and the county as currently pending. Neither of the two men listed as contacts for Shirley Investors in the county’s preliminary sale agreement responded to requests for comment on the matter.

It’s unclear what sort of legal argument the county might mount to recover the deposit.

The terms of the land deal say that the county would’ve been eligible to win back its $200,000 if it called off the sale within 90 days of signing the agreement with Shirley Investors — that deadline is long past, however, as the agreement was signed on Dec. 7, 2016.

Furthermore, the agreement describes that deposit as “the sole and exclusive remedy available to the seller” if the deal fell through.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Medical Emergency at Yorktown — A student suffered a serious medical emergency at Yorktown High School this morning. Police and medics rushed to the scene, CPR was performed and the student was reportedly revived. He was taken to a local hospital.

Arlington Tourism Website Wins Award — “The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International… on Jan. 22 presented the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) with a 2018 Adrian Award for the StayArlington tourism website.” [Arlington County]

Best Bowls of Soup in Rosslyn — A new list exhaustively details “where to go for a good bowl of soup” in Rosslyn, “because it’s everybody’s favorite cold-weather lunch.” [Rosslyn BID]

Gymnastics Competition at W-L — “The annual Barbara Reinwald Invitational girls high-school gymnastics meet was held Jan. 19 at Washington-Lee High School. The high-school meet, which has been held for decades, included 11 teams and was won by the host Washington-Lee Blue team.” [InsideNova]

Chef Geoff Winning Happy Hour Fight — Chef Geoff Tracy is poised to withdraw his lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, which seeks to overturn restrictions on advertising happy hour specials and prices, after the state legislature overwhelmingly passed bills that would remove those and other happy hour restrictions. [Tysons Reporter]

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Morning Notes

Free Pet Food for Furloughed Feds — Kriser’s Natural Pet, which has stores in the Courthouse area and the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center, is giving a free bag of food for anyone affected by the shutdown who shows a government ID. [Tysons Reporter]

County Clears Trash from TR Island Lot — With National Park Service maintenance workers furloughed, Arlington County crews helped clear overflowing trash from the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot last week. [Twitter]

County Opens ‘Safe Haven’ for Families — “The Arlington County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Services Unit is pleased to announce the grand opening of its Safe Havens Supervised Visitation and Exchange Center. Located at the Department of Human Services at 2100 Washington Blvd., the program will serve families who have been affected by domestic violence.” [Arlington County]

McAuliffe Vs. Stamos — Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has endorsed defense attorney Parisa Tafti over incumbent Theo Stamos in the race for Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney. All three are Democrats, but McAuliffe is still upset that Stamos “joined Republicans in arguing to the state Supreme Court that his mass rights restoration was unconstitutional.” The endorsement has earned a rebuke from Alexandria’s former Commonwealth’s Attorney, who called it “sad.” [Washington Post, Washington Post]

More Money Woes for Arlington Startup — “Danny Boice, the CEO and founder of private investigation company Trustify Inc., allegedly used company money to pay for personal expenses, including $600,000 for a documentary film about him and his wife, Jennifer Mellon, according to a new lawsuit filed by former Trustify employees seeking back pay and other damages.” [Washington Business Journal]

Forum to Discuss Dementia — “A community forum on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 23 from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. at Shirlington Library.” [InsideNova]

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A judge has struck down a lawsuit challenging plans to rename Washington-Lee High School, though name-change opponents are holding out hope that they may yet convince a court to block the process.

Three current W-L students were hoping to reverse the School Board’s vote to strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the building, arguing that the Board misled the public and failed to follow its own established procedures in making the decision back in June.

But Arlington County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman ruled today (Wednesday) that the students didn’t have grounds to challenge the vote, and that the Board didn’t commit any errors egregious enough to warrant the legal action.

Though he stopped short of tossing the case out of court or barring the students from adjusting their claims, he also granted a motion by School Board attorneys to dismiss the case, throwing up a key legal roadblock for the suit.

“Even though I can see things could’ve been done differently here, I can also see that, under the statute, there’s nothing wrong here,” Newman said.

For W-L alumni upset with the name change, about a dozen of whom watched the proceedings Wednesday afternoon, the result isn’t necessarily unexpected, but is disappointing nonetheless. Many have spent the months since the renaming vote aggressively pleading their case, with some even backing an independent challenger to one of the Board members who supported the name change.

Dean Fleming, one W-L alum who’s helped marshal opposition to the name change, told ARLnow that the ruling won’t deter those efforts, as it merely gives opponents “another bite at the apple.” Jonathon Moseley, the attorney representing the students, was a bit more hesitant, however.

“We do have the ability to rewrite [the suit],” Moseley said after the proceedings. “But we will have to think about whether a rewrite will cure what the judge saw to be a problem.”

Chiefly, Newman agreed with many of the procedural arguments raised by the Board’s attorney, John Cafferky.

Moseley and the students claimed that the Board erred when it first voted to change its policy governing the names of all Arlington Public Schools, then decided to initiate a name change for Washington-Lee immediately afterward, citing Lee’s “principal legacy” as a soldier for the Confederacy and defender of slavery.

Yet Cafferky pointed out that the Board largely followed the process it laid out in September 2017 to govern the name change deliberations. Though the Board did circulate some other possible guidelines in January that would’ve called for another round of community engagement before a name-change vote, Cafferky noted that the Board never formally adopted that change, and stuck with its initially established procedures.

“Everyone knew darn well that renaming the school was a possibility,” Cafferky said. “It wasn’t a surprise, because by that point, there had been all kinds of engagement for the past nine to 10 months.”

Moseley argued that it would’ve made more sense for the Board to “go back to the community, talk to them, advertise and then have a vote” before changing W-L’s moniker. But Cafferky also charged that it was within the Board’s discretion to guide how the process was managed, noting that “renaming procedure is not a provision of law.”

“The school could hold an essay contest to change the name or take nominations from the floor during a meeting,” Cafferky said. “They have a great deal of flexibility here.”

Procedure aside, Moseley and the students claimed that the school’s name was “part of their community experience,” and changing it would force them to shell out cash to change the names of uniforms and clubs. Yet Cafferky argued that such negative impacts on the students were “speculative,” considering that Washington-Lee won’t actually receive a new name until the Board votes on the matter next month.

Similarly, he pointed out that the Board is considering “Washington-Loving” and “Washington-Liberty” as the new names for the school, which could avert the need for any cumbersome logo or uniform changes by maintaining the “W-L” acronym.

With Newman’s ruling, the Board’s renaming work is set to move ahead (though it has not been without additional controversy). The Board will review new name proposals for the first time tomorrow (Thursday), then is set to vote on the matter on Jan. 10.

Moseley said his clients may well file an amended suit before that vote, though the impending holidays could complicate scheduling.

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Opponents of the decision to change the name of Washington-Lee High School have long claimed the School Board improperly cast aside its established engagement process on the matter — but the school system has now provided its most robust rebuttal of those charges to date.

A trio of students at Washington-Lee are hoping to block the school’s renaming with a lawsuit targeting the School Board and other top Arlington Public Schools officials, arguing primarily that the Board rushed a vote on the issue and failed to follow its proscribed process for accepting public comments on the name change.

The Board and its lawyers have already asked a judge to toss out the suit, claiming that the question of whether Board members followed their proposed engagement schedule is irrelevant in the legal proceedings. But, in a legal memorandum filed in late October, the APS lawyers argue extensively that the Board “properly followed its procedures in voting to rename W-L,” should the students’ legal challenge survive a judge’s scrutiny.

In short, name-change opponents have accused the Board of misleading the community by promising a two-step process, and not delivering; they argue the Board pledged to first revise its policy for naming all county schools, then consider whether to change Washington-Lee’s name specifically. Instead, the Board changed the naming policy, then voted to rename W-L all on the same night back in June.

The students backing the lawsuit, who have asked the court to withhold their names despite some giving on-camera interviews about the case, even claim a recording of their meeting with Board Vice Chair Tannia Talento bolsters those arguments. In that conversation, Talento did admit that “there was never any intentional engagement to the community about specifically changing [the name of] Washington-Lee.”

However, in the Oct. 26 motion, the School Board’s attorneys argue that name-change challengers have misunderstood what Board members promised to do.

The motion points specifically to the Board’s vote in October 2017 to adopt a four-stage process for drafting a new school naming policy. That process involved a staff committee identifying the names of schools that “may need to be considered for renaming” based on a revised policy governing school monikers, which ended up including W-L. Then, the Board agreed to “in tandem” adopt the new naming policy and “begin a renaming process for any schools that may need to be renamed.”

That means the lawyers believe Board followed its planned process during its June meeting, despite the claims to the contrary.

The Board’s attorneys do note that Superintendent Patrick Murphy did proposed a “modified procedure and timeline” for the process in January, which did allow for a separate round of community engagement and Board vote on a potential W-L renaming.

However, the lawyers write that “at no point did the School Board vote to adopt this alternate procedure and/or its accompanying timeline,” making it merely a proposal and not set policy. The attorneys even go on to describe Murphy’s January plan as a “non-binding, contingency plan” that “never supplanted the naming process or its accompanying timeline that had been previously adopted by the School Board in fall 2017.”

“Plaintiffs’ specific allegations that the School Board gave no advance public notice that the revised naming policy would be considered for a vote — and that the amendment was not circulated to the public in advance of its June 7, 2018 meeting — are both factually contradicted by the plaintiffs’ own amendment complaint and exhibits, and are legally irrelevant in any event,” the lawyers wrote.

Certainly, there are a variety of other legal arguments that the Board’s lawyers make to justify their earlier request that the case be dismissed. They believe the students don’t have standing to sue — as all of them are currently seniors, and won’t be attending the school by the time it’s set to be renamed in fall 2019 — and that the lawsuit improperly targets Board members and school leaders in their personal capacities, rather than the Board as a whole.

The attorneys also point out that a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge dismissed a similar legal challenge to the renaming of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church earlier this year. That school is now known as Justice High School.

The students and their attorney now have until Dec. 7 to file a motion rebutting the Board’s claims. A judge is set to hold a hearing on whether the case can go forward on Dec. 19.

Meanwhile, the Board has pressed ahead with the renaming process, in the hopes of voting on a new name for Washington-Lee next month.

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Morning Notes

When Is Trick Or Treating in Arlington? — Wondering about tomorrow’s Halloween candy gathering? There are no official trick-or-treating hours in Arlington, but as in previous years you can expect to see the first little ghouls and goblins around 6 — sometimes a bit earlier — and the last door knocks should happen by 8 or 9 p.m.

Engagement Ring Found in Courthouse — “I found an engagement ring today on Wilson and N. Troy… Happy to reunite if owner can provide accurate description!” [Twitter]

ACPD Lieutenants to Split Settlement — “Lieutenants in the Arlington County Police Department will split a pot totaling $1.24 million and the county government would avoid the possibility of legal action under an agreement inked – without public notice – on Oct. 23. The agreement, tacked on without forewarning to the community at the end of a County Board meeting, brings the county government in line with changes in federal law regarding overtime payments through the Fair Labor Standards Act.” [InsideNova]

AWLA Fundraiser a Success — Via an email from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “We are thrilled to announce that $45,000 was raised for animals in need at our 3rd annual Pints4Paws Pet Fest! We are so grateful to the more than 800 guests that attended, and to all of the volunteers and sponsors that made this event possible.  Thanks to you, we are going to be able to continue saving thousands of lives every year!”

Emergency Exercise at Fort Myer — Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hill “will conduct a Full Scale Exercise today, Oct. 30. Community notifications will be delivered until 4 p.m. by text, email, and loudspeaker.” [Twitter]

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The owner of the Highlander Motel in Virginia Square has secured a key legal victory, potentially allowing the property’s redevelopment to move ahead, and now he’s vowing retribution against county officials for tying up the process in court for years.

The Virginia Supreme Court declined last Wednesday (Oct. 10) to consider an appeal from the county in a case challenging local businessman Bill Bayne’s plans to replace the aging motel with a CVS Pharmacy. That means Bayne should be able to push forward with the redevelopment of the hotel, located at 3336 Wilson Blvd, after a judge twice tossed out legal action from county officials seeking to block those plans.

Bayne, who also owns the Crystal City Restaurant and co-owns the Crystal City Sports Pub, believes the county’s challenges were simply an attempt to scuttle his latest business venture, all at the cost of thousands in taxpayer dollars. With this latest legal victory in hand, he fully plans to renew talks to knock down the 55-year-old hotel in favor of the pharmacy, and then take the county back to court for his trouble.

“It’s not right what they’ve done, and it’s not right for them to do it to anybody,” Bayne told ARLnow. “But there’ll be a day of reckoning in court and a judge will decide if it’s right.”

County attorney Steve MacIsaac did not respond to requests for comment on the court’s ruling. But, in past legal filings and hearings, county lawyers have portrayed Bayne’s plans as not only a violation of some complex zoning laws, but also a “noxious use” of a property that sits quite close to some residential neighborhoods.

Even still, judges have twice disagreed with the county’s arguments in the case, and the Supreme Court ruled that there was “no reversible error” in those decisions for the high court to consider. Bayne believes the court declined to take up the matter for a simple reason: “Would you want to hear a joke case?”

“Why do you have to get told you’re wrong three different times?” Bayne said.

Bayne says his original plans for the pharmacy, as first sketched out roughly three years ago, would’ve netted him close to $45 million over the term of the 50-year lease for the property (which has been in Bayne’s family since at least 1985, county records show).

He hopes to revive a similar deal with CVS now that the court battles seem to be over, but he can’t be sure that the company will look kindly on the delay.

But with the legal wrangling over the years, Bayne expects he’s lost as much as $1.8 million while the project has stalled. He fully plans to recoup those losses by taking the county to court, and he says he’s contemplating legal action against everyone from the county zoning administrator to County Manager Mark Schwartz to current and former County Board members.

“It’s not OK to do this to somebody,” Bayne said. “There will be ramifications for this.”

Bayne says he’s not quite sure on the timetable for any potential litigation just yet. County court records don’t reflect any evidence that Bayne or one of his companies has filed suit against county officials, as of Tuesday morning.

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