For the second time in four years, a Grove property owner has filed a lawsuit against the City of Grove.
On Monday, Jan. 9, Bobby G. Warden filed a petition against the city in Delaware County District Court for inverse condemnation concerning his property on Har-Ber Road known as Smitty's Resort.
The petition claims city officials have "deprived [Warden] of any economic benefit of his property, has frozen [his] land in a state of economic unproductivity, has substantially interfered with [his] power of disposition, development and sale of his property and has thwarted [his] desired use for such property."
In the lawsuit, Warden asks the court to rule that the city's action, "constitutes an indirect taking of private property without payment of just compensation."
Warden requests a jury ruling, and asks for the court to appoint three people to determine the value of the 20 acres of land, which is located between property owned by by Christopher White and Har-Ber Road.
The land, which is bordered by Buffalo Shores North and another resort, is part of the property known locally as Smitty's Resort.
Warden also asks for damages in the amount his land is determined to be worth by the appraisers, attorney fees and the costs of the action.
Warden has retained Ronald D. Cates, an Owasso-based attorney. Cates also represented Warden in his previous lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court - Northern Tulsa.
About the current lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, after a roughly 50 minute special meeting, which included an executive session, members of the Grove City Council approved hiring Thomas LeBlanc, with Best and Sharp, a Tulsa-based law firm, to assist Cook with the lawsuit.
Grove City Attorney Darren Cook said LeBlanc, who represented the city during the previous federal lawsuit, knows the background of the case.
"There's a lot going on in the city right now, and he has experience [with Warden]," Cook said. At the time of the previous lawsuit, the city was represented locally by Brandon Watkins. "It's a similar case. We think it will be money well spent, so I won't have to relearn everything."
Cook said Warden's lawsuit in effect, claims actions taken by city officials has made the "property worthless."
Cook said while additional ordinances approved in February 2014 by the city council limits the usage of mobile homes in Grove, the land in question remains lakefront property, zoned as LFR, and with it could be used for several options including the development of houses or condos.
"This is another avenue to take [the city] to court," Cook said. "He's asking for a legal determination that the property is worthless."
Cook described the situation posed in Warden's lawsuit as an action of eminent domain - where the state comes into take property for a highway, and by doing so, makes the property commercially worthless.
Grove City Manager Bill Keefer said he does not know what the property is worth, in today's marketplace. He said in 2012, court records indicated the land was purchased by Warden for $265,000.
Cook said on Tuesday he anticipated filing for a reservation of time, which would extend the time provided for the city's response to the lawsuit as officials move forward with the lawsuit.
In the Jan. 9 filing, the city was required to respond to the lawsuit in writing within 20 days.
In May 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a ruling dismissing the lawsuit Warden filed in the U.S. District Court - Northern District in Tulsa.
That case, filed in July 2013, accused city leaders of interfering with Warden's plans to place a mobile home park on his property. Warden's lawsuit claimed city officials violated his free speech, and their actions failed to comply with due process procedures and failed to offer him equal protection under the law.
In the initial lawsuit, Warden wanted the city's land codes declared void and unenforceable - including a city ordinance passed on Oct. 26, 2012, which outlines where mobile homes may be placed within the city limits.
In August 2014, Judge Claire Eagan dismissed the lawsuit, with the exception as to the unripe citation issuance claim. In her ruling, Eagan said Warden continued to have claims under state laws, and that "judicial economy would be served by having the Oklahoma court's resolve issues of Oklahoma law."
Eagan ruled granting the city's request for a summary judgement and dismissal of the lawsuit. Court records indicate the unripe citation issuance claim, filed in Delaware County District Court, was dismissed in November 2014.
In May 2015, LeBlanc sent Cates a letter indicating Warden was responsible for $2,568.83 in attorney fees associated with the failed lawsuit.
When contacted after the special council meeting, Warden said filing the current lawsuit remained an option because federal court did not rule on items which should have been addressed in the district court.
"The case was never lost because the Federal Court didn't want to get involved in municipal cases," Warden said.
Warden directed all other questions to his attorney. Calls and text messages left for Case had not been returned as of Tuesday evening.
Editor's Note: This story is developing. Watch www.grandlakenews.com and Friday's Grove Sun for additional details.