The editorial in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette calls it "The SouthPass Problem." As they see it, "Dan Coody might be a lameduck mayor now that he’s lost his bid for re-election, but he’s certainly not going out with a whimper. The other day he cast the deciding vote to extend sewer lines to the much-debated SouthPass development. When the city council split 4-4 on the issue, Mayor Coody jumped in to move the development another step forward. In casting his vote, the mayor mentioned that he was doing it to keep Fayetteville out of a lawsuit with the developers. It wasn’t so long ago that the city attorney, Kit Williams, raised that possibility, saying the city already had obligated itself to SouthPass when it signed a contract to support it. Back out now, the city council was told, and Fayetteville would be liable for damages."
"Fayetteville is indeed in a tough spot when it comes to SouthPass," said the editorial. "But what Mr. Williams has yet to explain is why he let the city get into that spot—without sounding the alarm about what the city was rushing into. Why didn’t he cut ’em off at the (South ) pass?" All of this raises the question of how we got tricked into this contract that Coody signed and now says he has to vote for because he signed it and his developer buddies might sue the city.
Here's the answer. On September 7, 2004, under New Business, the City Council passed "a resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute an agreement with SouthPass Development Company to accept 200 acres of park land, a 10 acre water tank site, one million dollars for park land development and other consideration for the City's acceptance of ownership of a 33 acre landfill."
According to the official minutes of the September 7, 2004 meeting, Mayor Coody "explained that this is only a resolution. There are some contingencies and the contract is not being signed tonight." That was the contract at issue, and that was a lie. John Nock had already signed the contract on August 31, 2004. There was no further negotiation to protect the city, and Dan Coody signed it on September 7, 2004, after telling the Council it was just passing a mere resolution and that the contract would not be signed that night. That's how we got screwed. That's why Dan Coody and Kit Williams said the City could be sued.
Well, we think it is the City that should be suing the developers for specific performance. Under duress, the City has met every obligation under that shady contract. Section 2(C) of the contract specifies that SouthPass LLC shall convey by warranty deed a 200-acre parcel for the Community Park. It has not done so. Section 8 requires SouthPass LLC to contribute $1 million for development of the park. It has not done so.
Let's sue their asses and make them live up to their obligations of the contract. Call up John Nock and tell him to deliver that deed for 200 acres and bring a cashier's check for S1 million. Tomorrow. If not, let's consider them in breach of the contract for not honoring the agreement and call off the whole sorry deal that Dan Coody, Kit Williams, and Connie Edmonston got us into four years ago.