The Huguenot Farms Area Association filed suit May 7 in Richmond City Circuit Court against Taubman Centers in an attempt to block a proposed 282-unit apartment complex near the Stony Point mall.
The move comes ahead of a land sale to Wood Partners, an Atlanta-based developer. The neighborhood association said in its suit the deal will close in June.
“As time was getting ready to run out, our only real option at this point is to see if the courts will help us,” said Mark Shuford, a Spencer LLP attorney representing the neighborhood association.
The Huguenot Farms Area Association, which represents 250 residents living near Stony Point Fashion Park, argues that mall owner Taubman has gone back on a 13-year-old agreement to build only office and retail uses on Stony Point’s wooded northwest section.
In its suit, the HFAA is first asking the court for a temporary injunction to block the sale of the 27-acre parcel to give the court time to rule on the merits of the claim. The endgame, the neighborhood hopes, will be a permanent injunction preventing Taubman from selling the land to anyone for residential development.
The land in question is the northwest of the Dillard’s store. Richmond’s City Council and Planning Commission both approved a change to the Stony Point Community Unit Plan last fall, clearing the way for a new $40 million apartment complex on the site.
Several neighborhood associations, including the HFAA, opposed the change.
Plans governing the Stony Point area have been tweaked several times since a sort of master plan for the area was adopted almost 40 years ago. Previous agreements between Taubman and the neighborhood require that future amendments should be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
Shuford said that Taubman has previously acted as though it was required to gain approval from the neighborhood associations before advancing proposed changes.
“Until last year, when they just sort of unilaterally decided to go forward with this change to (the northwest parcel), they’ve acted as though they were bound to work within the confines of the agreements they had signed,” he said.
This time, he said, “Taubman didn’t even pretend to negotiate with them over this. There was no ground given in those discussions.”
As the plan moved through the Planning Commission and City Council last year, attorneys representing the Wood Partners said they had included a 180-foot buffer surrounding the development to mitigate the complex’s impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
Some Planning Commission members also questioned whether the apartments would be less intrusive than the office uses the Community Unit Plan currently calls for – an office park with lighted parking lots and only 100-foot buffers. Planning advanced the project by a 6-3 vote in October, and it passed City Council unanimously in November.
Wood Partners plans to break ground on the project this summer.