A Colonial Heights couple has filed a lawsuit against Kroger, the City Council and the City itself, arguing a massive supermarket project began without sufficient public notice.
The suit escalates a food fight within Colonial Heights, aiming to halt construction of the planned 90,000 square foot supermarket. The Kroger would be one of the largest in operation, and requires the demolition of the old Colonial Heights courthouse on Temple Avenue.
Attorneys for Dennis and Lou Jean Livingston, whose backyard borders the site, argue the rezoning of the property was unconstitutional and occurred before Colonial Heights received public input on the working agreement with Kroger.
"The zoning ordinance represents unconstitutional special legislation because the ordinance benefits a single entity, Kroger, to the detriment of all others," reads the lawsuit. "The [Livingstons] file this action in an effort to compel the Defendants to follow the law."
In a phone interview Wednesday, Colonial Heights City Attorney Hugh P. Fisher III said the City is baffled by the lawsuit. Fisher contends that Colonial Heights provided as much public notice as possible, while sensitive negotiations between the City and Kroger took place.
"Not only did the City post the required legal notices in the Petersburg Progress-Index newspaper and provide the Livingstons with personal notice of the proposed Comprehensive Plan and rezoning requests, it also posted all significant documents on the City website," Fisher said. "All of the Livingstons' claims are without merit, and they will fail in their efforts to derail the Kroger development."
The first notice of a public hearing was published Aug. 31, 2013 in the Progress-Index. Colonial Heights scheduled a news conference just under a week later, announcing early details of the deal.
The first opportunity for public input happened Sept. 10, 2013, four days after the news conference.
A court date has not been set, but the suit renewed debate within the neighborhood that would be primarily impacted by construction. Increased traffic near homes along MacArthur and Hamilton avenues has raised concern among some residents, along with potential changes in property values.
"I would move, I wouldn't want it in my backyard," said Chrissy, a neighbor who declined to provide her last name. "It should go over by the Southpark Mall. That's where they're building everything else."
Other neighbors are perplexed by the lawsuit, and said Wednesday they would welcome economic improvement arriving in the area.
"I think [the lawsuit] is kind of going a little over the edge," said Michael Miley, who lives a block away from the site. "I can walk down the street to the grocery store when I have to now."
Colonial Heights says the controversy will not change how the public is notified about future construction projects. The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages in addition to a halt in planned work.
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