Board to set initial price for Dillard’s next month

LONGMONT — The preliminary price of the Dillard’s department store in Longmont is expected to be decided by a three-person board in a court hearing expected to be held Dec. 11-13.

The process for determining the preliminary price in the eminent-domain case is a “unique situation,” said Leslie Fields, an attorney for Dillard’s Inc. (NYSE: DDS). Fields spoke Thursday, Oct. 31, in a court hearing to confirm the three-person board.

The board is expected to set the preliminary legal value so that the store’s title can be transferred to the Longmont Urban Renewal Authority and an $80 million redevelopment project can start at Twin Peaks Mall. A jury is expected to decide the final value of the building and surrounding land “later on,” Fields said.

The situation is unique because state law calls for a judge, a three-person board or a jury to decide the price of a property in an eminent-domain case. In this case, however, the price determination is on parallel tracks of both a three-person board and a jury because of decisions made by Boulder District Court Judge D.D. Mallard.

Mallard in August approved Dillard’s attorneys’ request for a jury trial, according to court documents. Dillard’s has appealed the constitutionality of the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which has delayed the process.

At the same time, Mallard ruled that the Longmont Urban Renewal Authority had the right to take title to the property. LURA officials requested that the title vesting process be expedited, which led to the process to select the three-person board. “Vesting title” refers to the right for the title to the Dillard’s property to transfer to the Longmont Urban Renewal Authority in the eminent-domain process.

The price decided by the three-person board will be separate from the price decided by a jury, according to legal experts. A jury trial is expected to be held sometime in the first quarter of 2014, Mallard said.

William R. Gray, a lawyer at Purvis, Gray LLP in Boulder, is chairman of the three-person board that includes J. Marcus Painter, a lawyer at Holland & Hart LLP in Boulder, and B. Scot Smith, a real estate broker at Colorado Group Inc. in Boulder.

The three men answered questions at the Oct. 31 hearing similar to questions asked by lawyers looking to empanel a jury. None of the men has served on such a panel before, each said.

Painter said he was an attorney in a Boulder County “inverse condemnation” case. He represented the Fowler Irrevocable Trust in a lawsuit in which the city of Boulder used three acres of the trust’s land from 1993 to 1995 as a staging area for the Goose Creek flood-control project.

Appraisers hired by Dillard’s and by the Longmont Urban Renewal Authority are expected to present information at the December hearing.

Eminent domain is the legal right of a public entity – in this case, Longmont city officials – to take a property after compensating the owner.

A Dillard’s appraisal states that the land and store at Twin Peaks Mall in Longmont is worth $6.3 million – nearly double the $3.03 million appraisal commissioned by the city of Longmont in November 2012. The 94,000-square-foot store and seven acres of land, and what it is worth, stand in the way of the planned development of the Village at the Peaks shopping center at the site.

Dillard’s owns the store it occupies, and has been there 17 years, Fields said. The store owners have veto power over any redevelopment at the Twin Peaks Mall site on Hover Street north of the Diagonal Highway. All other stores in the mall are owned by NewMark Merrill Mountain States, a real estate development company based in Fort Collins.

Longmont city officials offered to purchase the Dillard’s property for $3.6 million earlier this year, but Dillard’s requested $5 million. The Longmont Urban Renewal Authority was given the right to take title to the Longmont store in an Aug. 26 ruling from Mallard.

No decision has been announced about the appeal filed with the Colorado Court of Appeals.

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