A lawsuit was recently filed against the Ardmore Development Authority “for basically quieting the title of the ADA’s interest” in 47 acres of land it the Colvert Technology Park, said Ken Delashaw, part of the ADA’s legal counsel, on Monday.
The ADA approved hiring co-counsel for Delashaw during its regular meeting Monday bringing in an attorney who specializes in municipal law.
According to the petition, filed against the ADA on April 29 in Carter County District Court, the company that built a $400,000 building at the park, ATP Development, LLC, acquired title to the property originally through a warranty deed and again later through a correction warranty deed for the 47 acres.
ATP’s petition claims the development authority is now saying the deeds signed are null and void because the authority violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act when executing the deeds.
ATP’s attorney, Neil McGuffee, said Wednesday the company spent $400,000 constructing a building the ADA said would be occupied by high-tech company Amethyst, but it was never leased.
McGuffee said ATP borrowed in excess of $400,000 to build the building. Plans and specifications were furnished by the ADA. The building — that McGuffee called an “incubator” — was built specifically for a high-tech company with negative air flow, a “clean room,” and more.
At one point, ATP was advised Amethyst was insolvent, which prompted the ADA to scour the nation for a different high tech company, he said. A company was never found.
“(The building) was completed and the ADA advised at that time they didn’t have a company to put in it,” McGuffee said.
The ADA then leased the building for approximately one year before backing out in assisting with leasing the technology park, he said.
“After the building had been constructed, my clients had been sitting there with a white elephant,” McGuffee said. “It’s something no one wants to lease unless they’re a high-tech company.”
Receiving no assistance in finding someone to lease the property, ATP repeatedly requested to utilize the 47 acres for another type of industry.
“They never got any kind of response from the ADA, except for ‘we’re looking into it,’” McGuffee said.
At a final meeting with the authority in late 2015, ATP Development was told it did not have a good title to the real estate because the ADA did not comply with state law regarding the Open Meeting Act, the attorney said.
“We believe this is illegal, unfair and improper,” McGuffee said. “We’re still willing to work something out with the ADA to utilize this property for an industry or some type of business that would benefit Ardmore and sell the property, because right now, they can’t get anyone to lease this property.”
McGuffee added, they are not trying to point fingers at anyone, they just want the land that was deeded to them as a result of their agreement to construct the $400,000 building.
“We don’t think it’s fair for the ADA to come in six years later to say, ‘you don’t have this land,’” he said.
According to the attorney, the ADA did offer to allow ATP to keep the building along with five acres and continue paying $4-5,000 per month, but McGuffee said the building alone isn’t worth the amount.
“We’re just saying this is our land. We did what we were supposed to do,” he said. “I think these are good people, they’re trying to do the best for Ardmore, but we both went through significant confusion.”
Margaret Love, an attorney representing the city of Ardmore, said at the ADA meeting on Monday that if counterclaims are filed on behalf of the ADA, including efforts to try to recoup some of the land, the intent of the city would be to intervene in the lawsuit.
“As you know, the infrastructure out there was paid for with TIF funds and the city would want to make a claim against ATP for the cost of those infrastructures because that was the original agreement between ADA and ATP, to convey the 47 acres of land,” Love said.
Love continued that the consideration was to be the construction of infrastructure, as well as the development of an industrial park.
“Ultimately, ATP did not pay for any of the infrastructure,” she said.
According to Love, since it involves tax payer dollars with the TIF money, the city would want to recoup the value of that TIF money so it would be available for other uses by both the city and the ADA.
“We’re not quite sure what that is, it’s a minimum of $200,000, probably considerably more,” Love said.
ADA President Mita Bates said Monday she could not comment on the matter since the litigation is still pending. Attorney Tom Frailey did not immediately return a call to The Ardmoreite on Wednesday.