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Project Faith, King George both want land to go back to the county

Project Faith also wants $300K+ for costs, still blames county for inability to commence construction last August

Project Faith, Inc., filed an amended counterclaim in Circuit Court against King George County last week on April 30. The county is expected to file its response to the counterclaim later this month. Another court date, the case’s third, would be expected to be set for sometime this summer.

Both parties now want the same thing.

They both want rescission of the contracts so a 5.53-acre parcel of land on Route 3 (Kings Hwy) can revert to the county.

The only difference is that Project Faith is still asking for $300,000 and an unnamed amount for “other and further relief as deemed appropriate” from the County.

Project Faith is saying it wants $300,000 from King George to “restore it,” essentially for money spent towards its contractual performance for its site plan development, engineering work, design services, design and construction schematics and development of construction documentation.

In the last seven months, Project Faith has come around to wanting to get out of the contracts with the county, as the King George filing had requested last October 2013 in its original breach of contract complaint against the developer.

Since King George issued its notice of default last Aug. 2, 2013, and its subsequent October 2013 court filing for breach of contract, Project Faith and its four law firms with numerous lawyers have spent a lot of time communicating and defending its various positions.

The primary defense is to blame King George County, its officials, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), this newspaper, and an appointee to the King George Social Services board, for its failure to commence construction by its requested amended deadline extension of Aug. 1, 2013.  

That vigorous defense has in turn caused the county to spend time and money by its officials and lawyers to proceed with its effort to rescind the contracts and get the land back.

NO NEW ARGUMENTS
The counterclaim filed by Project Faith contains nothing new other than the request for rescission of the contracts.

The developer is again basing its arguments on a claim of “circumstances beyond its control,” as with its first counterclaim, which appeared to be quashed by the court’s action last month on April 9.

At that time, attorney Edward “Sunny” Cameron argued in court for King George, saying, “You have Project Faith that signed the contract they signed.” He also told the Judge, “The county agreed to what they agreed to.”

Project Faith again alleges the county is primarily to blame for its inability to commence construction by, or since, a contractual Aug. 1, 2013 deadline. Project Faith claims the county “engaged in a systematic pattern of conduct calculated to prevent” it from performing its obligations under the two guiding contractual documents.

The developer again alleges the county dragged its feet in reviewing building permit applications.

It again alleges that the county was slow to sign off on a request for changes to the road entrances. It alleges that VDOT was also to blame in part by sending its review comments to an incorrect email address for Project Faith.

It again blames the county for the developer’s inability to obtain financing and alleges it did not provide lease commitments.

As reported last July, the first incomplete submissions toward building permits for four buildings were submitted to the county’s office of Community Development by Project Faith on July 9. That was three weeks prior to the deadline for commencement of construction.

As an experienced housing project developer, Project Faith should have been aware that similar projects should expect to take 30 to 45 days, at a minimum, to obtain building permits.

Even if Project Faith had financing in hand for the project, the first submissions toward building permits were not made in time.

And while only three weeks away from the deadline for commencement of construction, there was still no advertisement calling for bids from construction contractors.

BACKGROUND
The land giveaway was contro-versial from the start, with opinions and emotions running high on both sides.
Other commercial property owners and developers in the county expressed outrage privately and publicly that in the midst of a sluggish recovery from the Great Recession and with empty buildings and closed storefronts going begging for leases, the county should give away prime property, and in effect, take potential leases for the departments of Health, Social Services, Extension and others off the market.

The land, adjacent to the county’s Sheriff’s office on Route 3 east of Purkins Corner, had been donated to the non-profit residential development company in mid-2012, with numerous conditions attached, to construct and operate in perpetuity a facility, referred to as a help center.

Project Faith was bound by strict terms to only lease space to various government agencies to house social programs and to other non-profits. The Deed of Gift states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement, any and all for-profit and/or commercial uses are prohibited.”

It also states that Project Faith is solely responsible for the continued maintenance and operation of the facility solely for its stated and intended purposes.

It also says the developer is prohibited from assigning and/or transferring any and all rights without prior written consent of the County.

The terms of the two guiding documents appeared to many observers to be insurmountable for Project Faith to overcome not only to obtain financing, but to attract and retain lessees that would cover the costs of its debt service and overhead in perpetuity.

 

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