Appeal prospects unclear for dismissed Arbor Park suit
Arbor Park has been sold and the lawsuit to preserve it has been dismissed. But after months of signature-gathering, campaigning, a lost election and now a failed legal challenge, there's still another resort for park opponents: an appeal to the ...
Arbor Park has been sold and the lawsuit to preserve it has been dismissed. But after months of signature-gathering, campaigning, a lost election and now a failed legal challenge, there's still another resort for park opponents: an appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court.
Henry Howe, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city, raised the possibility in July. The case, joined by about two dozen voters, challenged the validity of the June 20 city referendum that effectively slated the 15 S. Fourth St. park for construction. A judge ruled against the case last week, which claimed the city exceeded authority by holding all voting at the Alerus Center and that two absentee ballots had been wrongly tossed out.
Ron Fischer, the attorney who represented the city in the case, said a 10-day clock on an appeal deadline has already begun in the case. He has not yet heard whether an appeal is being filed, nor have clerk staff with the state Supreme Court. No appeal had been filed in the court's online docket system by late Thursday.
On Wednesday, the park was a dramatic contrast to what it was this spring, with its major artwork missing and its brick pathways removed, leaving dirt ruts behind. Signs hung along a fence in front of the property say "how depressing," "this was our backyard," and, above the rest, "park closed."
Mary Weaver, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who runs nearby Browning Arts, 23 S. Fourth St., declined to comment, as did artist Adam Kemp, who was downtown near the park on early on Wednesday afternoon.
Kevin Ritterman, president of Dakota Commercial and Development-the developer behind the project-said the project is still in the design phase, but that it's still set to become a five-story, $7.5 million condo and commercial building.
He said he wasn't surprised by the result of the recent ruling on the lawsuit, and that the prospect of an appeal doesn't bother him, either.
"I don't think it's going to mean much to us," he said. "We own the property. ... They can certainly do what they want to do. But no, we're full steam ahead. We're looking forward, not backwards."
With the park space sold, the city's involvement at the site now diminishes, with its role carting out major artwork behind it. Mark Aubol, the city official who supervised the crews that removed the artwork, said the city no longer has a right to work on the property.
Meredith Richards said the city's focus now turns to the future of its downtown parks, a question entwined with the future of the art removed from the park-like the arched arbor that was once at its center. The city has been exploring the matter for months now.
"We've taken pieces out of the park," she said, "and now our task is putting the pieces back together."