Oh yeah, it's still on.
There were no indications Friday that city and Wal-Mart leaders are looking to settle the lawsuit over a proposed Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. Attorneys for both sides met Friday in court and exchanged a few sharp words as they prepared to go to trial April 16.
There's been some question whether the two sides would try to settle the case, now that the makeup of the Lawrence City Commission is set to change considerably since it last denied a plan for the Wal-Mart store in October.
On Tuesday, Commissioner David Schauner failed to win re-election, and Commissioner Mike Rundle chose not to seek re-election. That leaves Commissioner Boog Highberger as the only member of the five-member commission that voted against the Wal-Mart plan.
Bill Newsome, a member of the development company that owns the property at the northwest corner of the intersection, has said his group has no plans to settle the lawsuit. Wal-Mart officials, however, have made no comment - including after Friday's hearing - on whether they have an interest in opening talks with the city.
Wal-Mart is seeking a ruling from the court that would allow it to build a 132,100-square-foot store on the site.
Attorneys spent much of Friday morning answering questions and making motions to Douglas County District Court Judge Michael Malone.
Wal-Mart attorneys made the most significant motion by asking Malone to broaden what they are allowed to argue in the case, which centers on whether the city illegally denied a building permit for a Wal-Mart store. That request brought a strong objection from Scott Beeler, an Overland Park attorney representing the city.
"I'm ambushed and surprised by these arguments today," Beeler told Malone after Wal-Mart attorneys made their case. "I think it is inappropriate."
The gist of Wal-Mart's argument Friday was that the court should use a more stringent standard of review in determining whether the city's Board of Zoning Appeals acted appropriately in upholding a decision to deny the issuance of a building permit.
Malone previously ruled that it only had to be shown that the Board of Zoning Appeals acted "reasonably" in denying the building permit. But Friday, Wal-Mart attorneys said they had found a 2005 Kansas Appellate Court decision that would indicate Malone should require that it be shown the Board of Zoning Appeals had examined and correctly applied the facts of the case to a specific set of ordinances and laws.
Beeler said he had a hard time believing that Wal-Mart attorneys had just now discovered the 2005 court decision. He said if Malone allowed the scope of the trial to be broadened, it "will completely change the trial approach" the city must take.
Malone said he would rule on the issue by the middle of next week.
The city also was unsuccessful in blocking an attempt by Wal-Mart to call Newsome as a witness in the trial. Beeler argued that Newsome's name wasn't on a list of witnesses delivered to the court earlier this year and should not be allowed to be added now.
But Timothy Sear, an attorney for Wal-Mart, said it had been clear that Newsome would be a witness in the case because he is a party to the lawsuit.
Sear also confirmed to Malone that he still plans to call former City Manager Mike Wildgen and former Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Director Linda Finger to testify in the case.