Suit doesn't slow plans for lakefront changes

Thursday, June 20, 2002

BRANSON, Mo. -- A lawsuit brought by its former development partners hasn't stopped the city of Branson from moving ahead with the redevelopment of the downtown lakefront.

The city plans within the next 30-45 days to ask the court to dismiss a suit filed last month by Branson Landing LLC, said Frank Evans, a Springfield attorney for the city of Branson.

Branson Landing, a consortium headed by Australia-based Jacobsen Entertainment Group Inc., acted as the designated developers for several months on the project, but the city ended that relationship early this year.

Financial damages sought

The lawsuit asks for unspecified financial damages, but what the Australian developers most want is a chance to work out their differences and proceed with the project, said their Kansas City attorney Mary Jo Shaney.

Now there's concern that the city has voted to issue a request for proposals, Shaney said.

"Branson Landing believes it is the developer and legally has the development rights," Shaney said. "They have some concern about the RFPs. It's that, 'Hey, guys. This is ours."'

The lawsuit should not go forward because of an agreement signed by the city and Branson Landing LLC in November, Evans said.

The agreement specifically provides that both parties "hereby release and forever discharge the other party ... from any and all claims, obligations, liabilities, damages, actions. ..."

But Branson Landing LLC "doesn't believe or think that the meaning of that clause in that agreement means that we can't sue, so we have a fundamental disagreement with the city over what that means," Shaney said.

Last November, the Branson Board of Aldermen designated Branson Landing LLC as the developers for the purposes of applying for tax increment financing to help pay off the development.

But in January, the dispute between the city and the developers reached the breaking point.

The parties were unable to resolve several issues including who would own the lakefront property, who would oversee the financing deal and how much tax money the city would pledge to the project.

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