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U.L. Coleman Co. Ltd. v. Bossier City-Parish Metropolitan Planning Commission

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

March 13, 2017

U.L. COLEMAN COMPANY, LTD, ET AL.
v.
BOSSIER CITY-PARISH METROPOLITAN PLANNING COMMISSION, ET AL.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE HORNSBY

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Consent Decree and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (Record Document 475).[1] The Coleman Plaintiffs argue that certain actions by officials of the City of Bossier City ('the City') demonstrate violations of the Consent Decree and the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement ('CEA') involving the proposed Implementation Plan for the Redevelopment Districts. More specifically, the Coleman Plaintiffs allege that the City is not in good faith in the creation and implementation plan for the two Redevelopment Districts required under the terms of the Consent Decree and CEA. Defendant, the City, opposed the motion and maintains that it is meeting its obligations under the Consent Decree and the CEA. See Record Document 483. Further, the City contends that it has considered the comments of the Coleman Plaintiffs in relation to the creation and implementation of the Redevelopment Districts and has responded to such comments in good faith. In addition to extensive briefing, the Coleman Plaintiffs' motion came on for a two day hearing before the undersigned in November 2015. See Record Documents 513-514, 517-518. For the reasons set forth below, the Coleman Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Consent Decree and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (Record Document 475), including their request for attorneys' fees and the costs incurred for the utilization of land use planning experts, is hereby DENIED.[2]

          I. BACKGROUND.

         On December 13, 2012, this Court signed a Consent Decree to resolve the disputes in the instant lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2008. See Record Document 423. The Consent Decree provides, among other things, that '[t]he parties are . . . ordered to enter into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement necessary to implement the intent of this court's ruling.' Id. at C.4.F. The Consent Decree also references the Redevelopment District(s) to be established:

         F. SPECIFIC BENEFITS TO THE CITIZENS OF BOSSIER CITY:

1. All parties agree to specific benefits to the citizens of the City as follows:
. . .
g. U.L. Coleman Companies will provide $50, 000 to the City for the City to engage a national design firm to provide plans and covenants for the Barksdale Boulevard Redevelopment District (to be established).
h. U.L. Coleman Companies will provide $50, 000 to the City for the City to engage a national design firm to provide plans and covenants for the redevelopment district of residential neighborhoods south of Barksdale Air Force Base. . . .

         Record Document 423 at 13. This Court retained jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcing the Consent Decree. See id. at 11. The Consent Decree provides, in pertinent part, that 'all decisions by Judge Hicks . . . are final and binding and are not appealable.' Id. at 12.

         On December 13, 2012, the parties entered into the CEA for Walker Place Community Benefits. See Record Document 424.[3] The key provisions of the CEA are set forth below:

         ARTICLE I

         DEFINED TERMS, RULES OF CONSTRUCTION AND INTERPRETATION

1.02. Defined Terms. As used herein, as well as in any document, certificate, report or agreement furnished from time to time in connection with this Agreement, the following terms shall have the meanings assigned below unless the context otherwise requires.
. . .
'Barksdale Boulevard Redevelopment District' means a Redevelopment District for the area along Barksdale Boulevard to be established by the City in accordance with the terms described herein.
. . .
'Coleman Boulevard Redevelopment Contribution' means the financial contribution to the City of $50, 000.00 to be used to engage a national design firm to provide plans and covenants for Barksdale Boulevard Redevelopment District.
'Coleman Neighborhood Redevelopment Contribution' means the financial contribution to the City of $50, 000.00 to be used to engage a national design firm to provide plans and covenants for a Redevelopment District of residential neighborhoods south of Barksdale Air Force Base.
. . .
'Project Plans' means the plans, specifications, and drawings for the Public Park which shall be prepared by the design and engineering professionals of the City, paid for in part by the Coleman Park Contribution, and the design plans, specifications, and drawings for the pedestrian and bicycle pathway in accordance with the City Pathway Contribution.
. . .
'Redevelopment District' means a geographical demarcated area within which certain best planning guidelines and practices are implemented, home ownership is encouraged, and certain public incentives, such as tax benefits and funding opportunities, are made available.
. . .
1.03. Rules of Interpretation.
. . .
(d) No Authorship Presumption. Each of the Parties has had an opportunity to negotiate the language of this Agreement in consultation with legal counsel. No presumption shall arise or adverse inference be drawn by virtue of authorship, and each Party hereby waives the benefit of any rule of law that might otherwise be applicable in connection with the interpretation of this Agreement, including but not limited to any rule of law to the effect that any provision of this Agreement shall be interpreted or construed against the Party (or whose counsel) that drafted such provision.
. . .

         ARTICLE III

         COMMUNITY BENEFIT PROJECTS, COLEMAN AND CITY OBLIGATIONS

. . .
3.02. Obligations of Coleman. Coleman hereby agrees as follows with respect to the Community Benefit Projects:
. . .
(b) Barksdale Boulevard Redevelopment District Design.
Coleman will directly contribute the Coleman Boulevard Redevelopment Contribution to the City to be used to engage a national design firm to provide plans and covenants for the Barksdale Boulevard Redevelopment District, within five days of the City's engagement of said national design firm.
(c) Barksdale South Neighborhood Redevelopment District Design. Coleman will directly contribute the Coleman Neighborhood Redevelopment Contribution to the City to be used to engage a national design firm to provide plans and covenants for a Redevelopment District of residential neighborhoods south of Barksdale Air Force Base, within five days of the City's engagement of said national design firm.

         3.03. Obligations of the City. The City hereby agrees as follows with respect to the Community Benefit Projects.

         . . .

(c) Creation of Barksdale Boulevard Redevelopment District. The City agrees to create and enact, in consultation and guided by the plans and covenants provided for in connection with the Coleman Boulevard Redevelopment Contribution, a Redevelopment District for the area along Barksdale Boulevard.
(d) Creation of Barksdale South Neighborhood Redevelopment District. The City agrees to create and enact, in consultation and guided by the plans and covenants provided for in connection with the Coleman Neighborhood Redevelopment Contribution, a Redevelopment District of residential neighborhoods south of the Barksdale Air Force Base.
3.04. Consultation. The Parties agree to consult one another, in good faith and in full cooperation, in the execution of the obligations of the Parties, as described in this Article III. Further, the City agrees to allow Coleman the opportunity to review and provide comments to the Project Plans prior to their finalization, which comments the City shall take into full, good faith consideration.
. . .
5.04. Term of this Agreement. This Agreement shall continue in full force and effect until (I) the completion of the Public Park; (ii) the completion of the pedestrian/bicycle pathway over Arthur teague Parkway from the Public Park in accordance with the City Pathway Contribution; (iii) the establishment by the City of the Barksdale Boulevard Redevelopment District in connection with the Coleman Boulevard Redevelopment Contribution; and (iv) the establishment by the City of a Redevelopment District of residential neighborhoods south of Barksdale Air Force Base in connection with the Coleman Neighborhood Redevelopment Contribution.

Id.

         Beginning in the summer of 2014, this Court began attending and monitoring construction progress meetings. See Record Document 438. The vast majority of these construction progress meetings focused on the construction of the park and the pedestrian bridge; however, the Court monitored the City's work as to the redevelopment districts required under the Consent Decree and CEA. See Record Document 471-5 (Final Minutes of 05.29.15 Progress Meeting).[4] In fact, during the November 2015 hearing, this Court remarked that it had 'pretermitted redevelopment districts and shoved it to the back burner' while the park and bridge projects were on front-burner status.' Record Document 517 at 14. The Court's minutes from the June 29, 2015 status conference/construction progress meeting state:

The Coleman Group requested additional time to submit FINAL written comments regarding the Implementation Plan for the redevelopment districts. Mr. Coleman shall contact the Court as soon as possible to advise of how much time, not to exceed 28 days, is needed for his group's FINAL comments. The communication protocols for the park and bridge project previously set remain in place. The Coleman Group is free to contact SWA for the purpose of retaining SWA for consultation in connection with the redevelopment districts.

Record Document 456. On July 21, 2015, this Court granted a motion for extension of time and extended the deadline for the Coleman Group to submit final written comments regarding the City of Bossier City's Implementation Plan for the Redevelopment Districts until August 14, 2015. See Record Document 460. The Court advised that no further extensions would be granted and that any filings received after August 14, 2015 would not be considered by the Court. See id.

         In July 2015, the Coleman Plaintiffs filed two motions, one of which was exclusively addressed to redevelopment. See Record Documents 458 & 459. The Court held a July 22, 2015 status conference to discuss the motions. See Record Document 464. Both motions were stayed pending a follow up status conference set for August 28, 2015. See id. The Court again reminded U.L. Coleman, III ('Coleman'), President of the U.L. Coleman Company, Ltd., that final written comments regarding the City's Implementation Plan for the Redevelopment Districts were due August 15, 2015. See id.

         On July 24, 2015, the Coleman Plaintiffs moved to withdraw their two motions (Record Documents 458 & 459). Their motions to withdraw were granted by this Court on July 27, 2015. See Record Documents 465 & 466. The Coleman Plaintiffs then filed a revised Motion to Enforce Consent Decree and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement. See Record Document 462. The revised motion was likewise stayed pending a follow up status conference set for August 28, 2015. See Record Document 469.

         On August 28, 2015, the Court held a construction progress meeting and a status conference. See Record Documents 470, 471 & 473. During the status conference, the Court discussed the revised Motion to Enforce Consent Decree and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (Record Document 462), including the 'Todd Meyer matrix'[5] submitted by the Coleman Plaintiffs. See Record Document 471. Counsel for the Coleman Plaintiffs admitted that the issues presented in the matrix were broader than the issues presented in the revised motion; thus, the Coleman Plaintiffs' revised motion was denied as moot. See id. The Court ordered that all counsel and the key individual parties meet on August 29, 2015 in an attempt to resolve all issues surrounding the City's Implementation Plan for the Redevelopment Districts. See id. The Court directed counsel to file a Joint Status Report outlining any progress made at the meeting. See id. If issues remained after the meeting, the Coleman Plaintiffs were ordered to file a new motion presenting any and all remaining issues relating to redevelopment districts. See id. Finally, the Court stayed all action on the redevelopment district pending further order of the Court. See id.[6]

         The parties were not able to agree upon a Joint Status Report outlining the progress made at the August 29, 2015 conference. See Record Document 477. Instead, the parties timely submitted individual reports on September 3, 2015. See id. Because all issues relating to the redevelopment districts were not resolved, the Court ordered that the stay relating to all action on the redevelopment districts remain in place. See id.

         On September 4, 2015, the Coleman Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion to Enforce Consent Decree and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement. See Record Document 475.[7]The Court set the Coleman Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Consent Decree and Cooperative Endeavor Agreement for hearing on November 19-20, 2015. See Record Document 477. In preparation for the hearing, the Court made several evidentiary rulings:

         A. Redevelopment District Boundaries.

         In an October 1, 2015 Memorandum Order, the Court sustained the City's objections as to the redevelopment district boundaries, holding:

As evidenced by the official minutes, this Court held that the required boundaries/districts of the Redevelopment Districts include only subdistricts 1 and 2 of the diagram. See Record Document 471-5 at 2 (4.01); Record Document 453 at 2.

Record Document 492 at 1. The Court also granted the City's Rule 12(f) Motion to Strike, Motion for Protective Order, or, in the Alternative, Motion in Limine stating:

The boundary issue has been decided, as this Court has held on at least three occasions that the district boundaries for the Redevelopment Districts at issue are limited to sub-districts 1 and 2 of the SWA Final Plan. See Record Documents 471-5 at 2; 453 at 2; and 492 at 1. Plaintiffs' request for reconsideration of this ruling is DENIED. See Record Document 494 at 8. Accordingly, the Motion to Strike and the Motion for Protective Order are GRANTED as to the boundary issue. All argument on the boundaries for the two Redevelopment Districts, and discovery relating thereto, are to be stricken from Record Documents 475 and 475-1. Additionally, Plaintiffs are precluded from seeking discovery in this litigation on the determination of the boundaries from the two Redevelopment Districts at issue.

Record Document 500 at 4-5.

         B. Minimal Effort.

         The City objected to the Coleman Plaintiffs' attempt to seek discovery regarding 'the action of city officials to only make the minimal effort in pushing forward with the redevelopment districts.' Record Document 486-3 at 1. The Court sustained such objection, holding 'the relevant issue is compliance with the consultation provision of Section 3.04 of the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement for Walker Place Community Benefits . . ., not ‘minimal effort.'' Record Document 492 at 2; see also Record Document 500 ('As stated in a previous ruling, it is this Court's belief that the relevant issue at this stage is compliance with the consultation provision of Section 3.04 of the CEA, not ‘minimal effort' versus ‘complete commitment.'').

         C. Volkert, Inc.

         In an October 1, 2015 Memorandum Order, the Court sustained the City's objections relating to Volkert Engineering, holding that 'this Court approved Volkert Engineering, a national firm, for ...


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