Archive for Sunday, December 6, 2009

Business owners wrestle over land near Lecompton

Lawsuits delay development near Lecompton interchange

December 6, 2009


A chunk of prime real estate that economic development leaders hope will lure new jobs to Lawrence remains tied up in several lawsuits.

And one has taken a soap-opera like twist, pitting longtime business partners Duane Schwada and Russell Tuckel Jr. against each other.

Three lawsuits are pending against a 155-acre piece of industrially zoned property immediately north of the Lecompton turnpike interchange.

The property has been touted by economic development leaders as a key in attracting companies that want to take advantage of Lawrence’s location along Interstate 70. People with knowledge of the situation have said that Berry Plastics is considering the site, among others, for a new warehouse and distribution facility.

But a lead attorney in one of the lawsuits said legal proceedings on the property likely will drag into at least the early spring.

“It probably is unlikely that anybody will want to put much money into developing that site until these legal issues are resolved,” said Evan Ice, the county counselor for Douglas County, a defendant in one of the lawsuits.

Zoning, annexation concerns

Two of the lawsuits are fairly traditional legal cases in which neighbors near the site object to both the annexation and rezoning of the property.

In one case, Scenic Riverway Community Association and several people who live near the site contend that the Douglas County Commission improperly cleared the way for the Lawrence City Commission to annex the property, about a mile from any other land in the city limits.

Ron Schneider, a Lawrence attorney who represents the neighbors, said the County Commission was required to act as a quasi-judicial body — which dictates a certain set of procedures and considerations — when it determined the annexation action could proceed.

“We don’t think the county’s decision was reasonable or legal, or that they followed the procedures required under a quasi-judicial action,” Schneider said.

The county has denied those allegations and continues to defend itself in the suit, Ice said.

A second case involving the property is similar. The community association and neighbors allege Lawrence City Commission did not follow proper procedures or act reasonably in rezoning the property for industrial uses.

The city also has denied those allegations and continues to contest the lawsuit.

If plaintiffs are successful, the lawsuits could strip the property of its zoning and annexation, or require those processes to start over.

But the third suit pits the owners of the 155 acres against each other. Venture Properties Inc., a development company led by longtime Lawrence businessman Duane Schwada, has filed a suit seeking to dissolve its partnership with Russell Tuckel Jr.

Schwada and Tuckel have been business partners in more than a dozen Lawrence development and real estate companies since the 1970s, court documents show. The partnerships include one that purchased the 155 acres near the Lecompton interchange.

But now Schwada’s company is seeking to dissolve that partnership and have the 155 acres “partitioned” — or in other words, divided — among the members of the partnership.

It wasn’t immediately clear how that division of the property would affect its ability to be developed as an industrial site. Attorneys for both Schwada and Tuckel declined to comment on the case.

But it appears the lawsuit stems from another, broader legal issue between Schwada and Tuckel. In a fourth case, Schwada personally sued Tuckel after Tuckel made allegations that Schwada was “hoarding” cash and improperly denying Tuckel income from their various partnerships.

The allegations were made after Tuckel had told Schwada that he was looking to sell his interests in 13 partnerships that he has with Schwada. According to court files, Tuckel believes he did not receive an acceptable offer from Schwada, who is the lead shareholder in the partnerships. Tuckel then demanded that Schwada provide $1.18 million in cash disbursements from five of the partnerships.

In an Aug. 27, 2008, letter from his attorney, Tuckel alleged that Schwada had been prohibiting cash distributions from the companies in an effort to “squeeze” Tuckel to “create an incentive for him to sell his interest to Mr. Schwada at less than fair market value.” In court filings, Schwada has denied those allegations.

The letter alleges the companies, at Schwada’s insistence, have been “holding onto approximately $4.5 million in cash for many, many months without making any significant distributions to members.” Schwada has said in filings that the cash has been needed as legitimate working capital for the companies.


somebodynew 8 years, 3 months ago

Well, maybe the old saying "there is no honor among thieves" is showing itself.

Go Scenic Riverway Community Association !!!!!!

OutlawJHawk 8 years, 3 months ago

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

What jobs?

This is a bad business deal for taxpayers any way we look at it. This is one way of expanding OUR tax bills.

JustNoticed 8 years, 3 months ago

"Schwada and Tuckel have been business partners in more than a dozen Lawrence development and real estate companies ..."

Notice, fellow citizens, these are partnerships of two guys, just two guys, yet when it comes to making donations to political candidates, each partnership/company/corporation is treated as if it were an individual and is allowed to donate the same maximum amount an individual can donate.

I can donate 1 x $500 while the pair of them can donate at least 12 x $500 = $6,000 or $3,000 per self-interested human being.

Do you see how that makes a joke of local politics enabling them to have their way and continue the pattern of sprawl and blight that is the ruination of Lawrence?

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 3 months ago

Merrill- all of your pet projects increase our taxes but since they are YOUR pet projects it is ok?????? How many jobs has any of YOUR pet projects created??????

Go back to your normal OCD cut and paste rants and let the big boys and big girls discuss this issue.

maxc 8 years, 3 months ago

This was a bad idea from the beginning. One can only hope this casts a light on the dark deeds of those involved. I hope the surrounding community wins.

jvinland 8 years, 3 months ago

This land has one of the most incredible views of the Kansas River valley that I have ever seen! This beautiful land should not be violated. It should be preserved in its natural state If it is developed into an industrial area it would rank above the destruction of the Elkins Prairie.

theheadturner 8 years, 3 months ago

Operative sentence: “Berry Plastics is considering the site, among others, for a new warehouse and distribution facility". The year old legal proceedings are now being regurgitated. Has this story been planted as a deliberate attempt to discourage Berry Plastic’s from this site to another site.... is the JW being used??

Sunny Parker 8 years, 3 months ago

If you thought the 'land' was so beautiful, you should have bought the entire thing and let it sit like you want.

You don't own it. You should have no say!

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 3 months ago

It never went on the open market Sunny, or else it would have been bought by someone else.

somebodynew 8 years, 3 months ago

Agreed Hipper and Jackripper- unknown to many there was an estate sale ther after the owner passed away, but the property was never advertised on the open market. I think somebody (other than a developer bent on ruining a country neighborhood) would have gladly purchased that land.

vandiest 8 years, 3 months ago

I have worked for Duane and Steve Schwada part-time for 10 years and always found them to be fair and honest Lawrence needs all the middle class workers it.can find. They are the ones that keep the city moving. The more industry we have, the more the city grows.

puddleglum 8 years, 3 months ago

yeah, if you wanna build a nuclear dump site on your own land, nobody should stop you. you should be able to do what ever you want with your own land. let freedom ring. I like toxic waste and who cares about my neighbors? if they don't like my land being used as a dump site, they can buy it. I'll let you in on first bids.

america= still #1 for now.

china coming to get you

Michael Capra 8 years, 3 months ago

some people forget where they came from and who made them and let their wife run the show

Michael Capra 8 years, 3 months ago

outlaw jayhawk as u know D schwada is a good man and has not forgotten where he came from and has allways been a man of his word and has never broken that ,,,,as you would want people to believe

vandiest 8 years, 3 months ago

Before you comment please get your facts straight!

vandiest 8 years, 3 months ago

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vandiest 8 years, 3 months ago

Open market??? if anyone that owns land around this section, and you are worried about what coming, and wants to sale your land. Please get a hold of me!

StrangerCreek 8 years, 3 months ago

vandiest/458 - I couldn't agree more. The Schwada's are honorable men. They have always paid their bills before they're due. The huckster here is Ron Schneider. Typical lawyer. I remember a story few years back that was on the airwaves, the legal beagles were concerned we average Joe's felt Lawyers were money hungry pariahs and decided to conduct a poll to see why we didn't like them or felt this way. You were able to get a copy of the questionnaire at numerous legal offices across the county to complete and help them to understand us and to hopefully improve their image. The only catch was it cost you about $100 to get one.

puddleglum 8 years, 3 months ago

kingybaby.... you gotta problem with lawyers? maybe you should have gone to law school.

mdrndgtl 8 years, 3 months ago

There is nothing so beautiful as a Berry Plastics manufacturing plant...

Evolution and posercare lives unprecedented

Darwin bless you

Btuckel 8 years, 3 months ago

All this talk about Schwada, I would like to hear what the community thinks of Russel Tuckel, this article is a small fraction of the issues which have occurred. I will tell you now i do not know all the facts, an in my opinion neither do half the people on here. I'm not much of a debater on issues but we all have our opinions.

Sunny Parker 8 years, 3 months ago

Why do people hate others with money?

I don't understand that!

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