Settlement could allow Gateway project to move forward soon

May 02, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

A legal settlement expected to allow development of the Gateway of the Americas project to move forward was announced today just as the parties were scheduled to go to trial.

The parties include the Los Alamos Land Co. LP, the John Pierre Menvielle family and Imperial County. The settlement acknowledges the potential of Los Alamos filing for bankruptcy, and that if so, the county and Menvielle may rescind the terms of the agreement.

The settlement is not much different from the conditions that existed prior to the lawsuit.

"It is a material change from the standpoint that the John Pierre Menvielle family, because they now will take on the obligation of constructing lanes three and four of Menvielle Road and in turn Los Alamos is forgiving all claims against them for reimbursements arising from infrastructure costs advanced by Los Alamos," said Menvielle attorney Timothy Fields. "Although the figures are somewhat close on paper, we think that this will greatly enhance the progress of the project. It breaks the logjam and for all intents and purposes this project can now go forward.


"It has a brighter future now than at any time in the past year," Fields said.

Fields said there will be no payment of attorneys fees by one party to another.

Los Alamos principal Thomas Nassif said the settlement benefits Los Alamos.

"It removes a condition that the county placed at the last minute on us that we could not file another final map until we provided all of the funds to build all of Menvielle Road, from Gateway Loop up to (Highway) 98," he said. "Today's settlement removes that condition. It acknowledges that the John (Pierre) Menvielle family owes us over $600,000, which has not been paid, and that they will use that money to assume the obligation which the county placed on us for two lanes of Menvielle Road from Maggio Road to SR 98."

Nassif said Los Alamos does have an obligation to further build Menvielle Road when warranted by traffic numbers.

Regarding Los Alamos' financial problems, Nassif said the settlement enables Los Alamos to move forward and sell its land and to finance the land without certain conditions in the way. He said his lenders do not favor pending foreclosure actions and that they'd prefer the land be developed.

County outside attorney Don Worley said today's settlement does not differ materially from the settlement rejected two weeks ago.

"There were different little details that hung us up and those details got resolved," he said.

Added County Counsel Ralph Córdova Jr.: "It's going to allow Gateway to move forward."

John Pierre Menvielle expressed gratitude to all those involved in his legal efforts including his family and attorney.

"May we continue to successfully move the Gateway project forward," he said.

The underlying case was filed against the county by Los Alamos, in which Los Alamos claimed it was forced to agree to a cost-sharing agreement for a Gateway project "equalizer road" known as Menvielle Road. Los Alamos argued the road should have been designated a "backbone road," which would have led to a different cost-sharing formula, and that the county required Los Alamos to agree to the equalizer road cost-sharing conditions or face delays in its projects.

In response to the Los Alamos lawsuit, the John Pierre Menvielle family filed a cross-complaint seeking to force Los Alamos to live up to the agreement, and to pay damages.

Settlement terms include Menvielle and Los Alamos paying for certain portions of Menvielle Road, that Los Alamos waive certain phase one infrastructure reimbursements from Menvielle, that Los Alamos dismiss its lawsuit against the county, that a cross complaint against Los Alamos by Menvielle be dismissed, that Los Alamos abandon its appeal of certain court rulings not in Los Alamos' favor, that Los Alamos dismiss certain other legal actions and that the certain rights-of-way for Highway 98 east of Highway 7 be returned to Los Alamos, among others.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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