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Robert Siegel, Inc. v. District of Columbia

February 9, 2006; as amended February 15, 2006

ROBERT SIEGEL, INC., ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (04-LT-10741) (Hon. Geoffrey M. Alprin, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Washington, Chief Judge

Argued November 29, 2005

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, and GLICKMAN and KRAMER, Associate Judges.

Appellants Robert Siegel Inc., 1352-1354 Corporation, and AB Enterprises ("the Siegel Group")*fn1 seek review of a June 15, 2005 order dismissing a complaint against the District of Columbia seeking to enjoin it from moving forward with its plan to acquire a parcel of land for the proposed baseball stadium site on the grounds that the statutorily required revaluation of the land acquisition cost was made in bad faith. Appellants contend that the trial court erred in finding that: 1) the appellants have an adequate remedy at law and, therefore, are not entitled to equitable relief; 2) the appellants' claim was not yet ripe; and 3) the Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004 does not provide for a private right of action. Although our reasons differ somewhat, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

I. Statutory Background

On September 29, 2004, the Honorable Anthony Williams, Mayor of the District of Columbia, the District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Commission and the Baseball Expos, L.P., entered into an agreement to bring Major League Baseball back to the District. Under the terms of the agreement, the District must fund and construct a new baseball stadium complex, and the agreement designates a proposed site for construction on the area bounded by N Street, S.E., Potomac Avenue, S.E., South Capitol Street and I Street, S.E. On December 2, 2004, the District of Columbia City Council adopted the Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004 ("the Stadium Financing Act"). The Stadium Financing Act was drafted based on findings by the D.C. Council that:

(1) The ownership, construction, development, or renovation of a publicly financed stadium in the District of Columbia, after October 1, 2004, for use primarily for professional athletic team events is a municipal use that is in the interest of, and for the benefit of, the citizens of the District of Columbia because such a publicly-owned stadium or arena will contribute to the social and economic well-being of the citizens of the District of Columbia and significantly enhance the economic development and employment opportunities within the District of Columbia. (2) To further that interest, it is appropriate for the District of Columbia to pay all or a portion of the cost of constructing, developing, or renovating a stadium and, to that end, to impose a ballpark fee based upon the gross receipts of certain persons doing business within the District of Columbia; to impose a tax on the sales of tickets, or rights to admission, to certain events at the stadium; to impose a tax on sales of personal property and certain services at the stadium and to utilize the revenues derived from such fees and taxes to pay all or a portion of the cost of development, construction, or renovation of the stadium or the debt service on bonds or other evidence of indebtedness issued to finance all or a portion of the cost of the development, construction, or renovation of the stadium; to acquire real property in furtherance of these public purposes; to lease the stadium to one or more professional baseball clubs; and for the District of Columbia and any duly designated District government agency or instrumentality to enter into binding and enforceable contracts to further these purposes.

D.C. Code § 10-1601.01-02 (2005 Supp.). The D.C. Council also adopted a series of amendments know collectively as the Private or Alternative Stadium and Cost Trigger Emergency Act of 2004 ("Cost Ceiling Act"), concurrently with the Stadium Financing Act, geared toward controlling the stadium's final cost. The amendments required the District's Chief Financial Officer ("CFO"), Natwar M. Gandhi, to re-estimate the cost of acquiring the stadium site while setting a $165 million cap for cost of land acquisition and infrastructure preparation. D.C. Code §§ 10-1601.01, .07 (2005 Supp.). The relevant portion of the amendment states:

(d) Prior to May 15, 2005, and prior to the date upon which the District enters into any obligation to acquire or purchase any property on a site bounded by N Street, S.E., Potomac Avenue, S.E., South Capitol Street, S.E., and 1st Street, S.E. ("primary ballpark site"), the Chief Financial Officer shall re-estimate the costs to the District for land acquisition and infrastructure and provide a report on this re-estimate to the Mayor and the Council.

(e) If the total amount of these re-estimated costs to the District exceeds $165 million, the primary ballpark site shall be deemed financially unavailable by the District pursuant to this subchapter. Pursuant to this subchapter, the Mayor and the Sports and Entertainment Commission shall pursue replacement of the primary ballpark site with a substantially less costly site in the District, subject to the approval of Baseball Expos, L.P., or its assigns or successors, in accordance with the Baseball Stadium Agreement.

D.C. Code § 10-1601.07 (d,e) (2005 Supp.).

On March 30, 2005, the CFO submitted a letter to the Mayor and the Council outlining his re-estimate of the costs that the District would incur in acquiring and readying the proposed ballpark land. The letter stated that, "based on data available through March 18, [the CFO study] finds that the cost to the District to acquire roughly 13.8 acres of land, remediate the site, and provide Ballpark-related infrastructure improvements is approximately $161.3 million,*fn2 including $11.9 million in contingency costs." Letters from Natwar M. Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia to Anthony Williams, Mayor of the District of Columbia and Linda W. Cropp, Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia (March 30, 2005).*fn3 Some Council members initially questioned several of the re-estimate's conclusions, and Mr. Gandhi responded to the Council by addressing fourteen individual issues*fn4 about the accuracy and reliability of the report, concluding that no alteration of the $161.3 million figure was required.

II. Procedural History

On April 11, 2005, the Siegel Group filed suit in the Superior Court seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to prevent the stadium project from moving forward.*fn5 The Siegel Group asserted that while the CFO and the District facially complied with the requirements of the Act, the revaluation study had been conducted in bad faith and the District should be required to find another site for its proposed stadium. On April 20, 2005, the District filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. On June 15, 2005, the court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss on the grounds that the District of Columbia's eminent domain statute granted the plaintiffs a sufficient remedy at law*fn6; the case was not ripe ...


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