FAIRHOPE — The City of Fairhope has responded to a lawsuit brought against it by 68 Ventures, saying the denial of the company's plans to build two multi-occupancy housing complexes was not unconstitutional.

The 27-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama on behalf of 68V BTR Holdings, LLC (68 Ventures) accuses the City of Fairhope and the Fairhope Planning Commission of denial of due process, denial of equal protection, misrepresentation, equitable estoppel, invalidating 68V BTR’s arbitrary and capricious application denials.

“[T]he project became a topic of dissent among residents of the City of Fairhope, especially among white affluent residents,” the lawsuit states. “The main grief was that the multi-occupancy complexes were not expensive enough to price-out lower-income tenants, including minority tenants.”

The two proposed properties are outside of Fairhope City limits but are in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city, meaning zoning is regulated by the City of Fairhope based on an agreement between the city and Baldwin County.

The Skyline Village property is approximately 16.5 acres along Dyer Road.

Dryer Road Alabama News
Skyline Village property. (Google Maps)

The Gables on Lawrence property is approximately 20 acres along Lawrence Road.

Lawrence Alabama News
Gables on Lawrence property. (Google Maps)

68 Ventures bought the properties after speaking with city officials and members of the planning commission on how to meet the requirements for developing the properties, then hired multiple contractors, consultants, designers and others to work on the properties. The lawsuit states the "Commission represented to 68 Ventures that it met all requirements for approval of the complexes."

After news of two multi-unit apartment complexes spread around town, representatives with 68 Ventures said some residents came forward with complaints. The lawsuit explains that after hearing from residents who perceived the development as being for "low-income" residents, members of the commission decided to deny the application.

"The Commission's denial violated its administrative duty to fairly evaluate the applications and constitutes arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable action in violation of the due process protections provided by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution," the lawsuit states.

68 Ventures claim that before they officially submitted an application, they saw and heard commission members say they would deny the application.

"In the video, taken prior to Plaintiff's submission of the building applications, the Planning Commission admits that there is no 'reason to deny the application but that they could just deny' the application anyway because they did not want Plaintiffs multi-occupancy complexes built," the lawsuit continues.

The lawsuit also alleges a commission member who admitted to denying the application for pretextual reasons said she didn't think the property owner would file a lawsuit because it would be bad for his business, which is headquartered in Daphne. That member also said in the recording the application was denied due to health, safety and traffic concerns.

In the latest court filing, the City of Fairhope denied or did not respond to the accusations. In a motion to dismiss, the city maintained it has the right to deny the developments. The city of Fairhope said 68 Ventures is "attempting to turn a run-of-the-mill land use dispute over administrative denials into a constitutional case. But the facts alleged and documents submitted by 68V in the Complaint fail to allege a plausible cause of action against Defendants."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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