Motion to Dismiss Pittsboro Matters Lawsuit Effectively Stayed
(Reprinted with permission from the Chatham News/Record, 1/29/2015)
By Bill Willcox
Pittsboro Matters emerged from court unscathed on Monday as one motion to dismiss its first lawsuit was effectively stayed and another motion to dismiss will likely be decided another day.
Pittsboro Matters, a grassroots activist non-profit, is challenging the Town of Pittsboro in two lawsuits, seeking to overturn two rezoning approvals that would allow the massive development to move forward over the next 30 years.
One rezoning was approved June 9 and a revised rezoning was approved Dec. 8.
Chatham Park has intervened on behalf of the defendant, the Town of Pittsboro, in the first lawsuit, and is expected to intervene in the second.
One motion to dismiss, filed in mid-December by Chatham Park attorneys, claimed the first lawsuit was “moot” and should be dismissed because the Town had passed a new rezoning that took the place of the first one.
While this may have seemed reasonable, it presented a danger to Pittsboro Matters, which conceivably could have won an overturn of the second rezoning, but still lost the case because Chatham Park would have reverted to the rezoning in place at the time, i.e. the rezoning approved June 9th.
In technical terms, the court granted a motion to “dismiss without prejudice.” It granted the motion to dismiss due to mootness but left a back door open for Pittsboro Matters to litigate in the future.
It has the same effect as granting a motion for a stay.
“It means that if we prevail in the second lawsuit and knock out approval of the second master plan and rezoning, then we will 30-60 days to file another lawsuit challenging the original rezoning,” said Pittsboro Matters spokesperson Jeffrey Starkweather.
Another motion to dismiss was denied as well on Monday morning.
The standing challenge to Pittsboro Matters for the first lawsuit, which asserted that none of the plaintiffs suffered financial harm from the rezoning, was tossed out because it was no longer an issue. It became moot along with the first lawsuit, for now.
But it is expected to come back in another form tied to the second lawsuit.
“Obviously, this will be re-litigated in the second lawsuit,” Starkweather said.
Pittsboro Matters has sought to strengthen its defense against this motion, taking on formal members starting in December and gathering affidavits from plaintiffs showing how their land abuts Chatham Park land, and therefore they would suffer loss of property value and other harm.
There was one final action Monday morning. The Town of Pittsboro filed for a 30-day extension to respond to the second lawsuit. That means they have a total of 60 days from December 23 when PM filed the lawsuit to respond. CPI has not yet sought to intervene in the second lawsuit.
Starkweather said the failure of CPI to derail the lawsuits shows Pittsboro Matters is still going strong.
“What I can see simply if that we are proceeding full-speed ahead with the second lawsuit and no challenge to our lawsuit by CPI or Pittsboro has succeeded to date,” he said, “while PM’s first lawsuit forced CPI to seek a second master plan and rezoning to correct admitted deficiencies or defects in their first master plan and rezoning.”