To that end plaintiffs submitted an affidavit to the Court on Friday, September 27th, for the sum of $43,623.13.
That is quite a financial burden the Town put on residents impacted by this flawed decision - not to mention the emotional stress caused by the ordeal. It is high time the Town relieve that burden. The repeated mistakes by Town Staff and the callousness with which this flawed decision was pushed through by the outgoing group of former elected officials more than justifies plaintiffs taking this step.
According to the NC General Statutes, attorney's fees can be awarded according to the following :
§ 6-21.7. Attorneys' fees; cities or counties acting outside the scope of their authority. In any action in which a city or county is a party, upon a finding by the court that the city or county acted outside the scope of its legal authority, the court may award reasonable attorneys' fees and costs to the party who successfully challenged the city's or county's action, provided that if the court also finds that the city's or county's action was an abuse of its discretion, the court shall award attorneys' fees and costs. (2011-299, s. 1.)
In addition to the obvious fact that the Town violated its own rules under the planning ordinance as verified by both the Superior Court decision and that decision being upheld on appeal, in the filed motion the plaintiff's Attorney points out that the Town admitted to the Court this violation was how they had always done things. Meaning, other cases in the past have clearly been impacted by the Town's actions. However, due to the brief statute of limitations in zoning decisions, these other cases can not be challenged. In light of this admission, the Town is effectively saying it has gotten away with violations in the past.
A strong argument can certainly be made that this case falls both under the discretionary purview of the Court with the clear violation of the ordinance as well as the mandatory category of violations requiring the awarding of attorney's fees.
The Town through the actions of its Planning Department and it's Town Attorney, Cindy Reid, clearly misinterpreted the legal requirements of the Town's own ordinance. The fact that the notice requirements in the ordinance are very clear but not following them is how the Town has always done it, shows a reasoned decision to do so.
A hearing on this motion has been set for November 21st. Check back with aShortChronicle for more on this as it unfolds.