Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Developer is stalled once again

Extension in dispute

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Midland Atlantic Properties of Cincinnati has run into another roadblock in its quest to build a Kroger store on Mason-Montgomery Road.

        John Zopff, owner of Western Row Golf Course, site of the proposed Kroger, is refusing to extend the developer's option period on the land.

        Midland Atlantic, which had exclusive rights and first option to purchase the 141-acre golf course, has filed a lawsuit in Warren County Common Pleas Court against the 72-year-old businessman, alleging breach of contract.

        The lawsuit asks for more than $50,000 in damages and an extension of the option period so Midland can get the land rezoned. It also asked the court to restrain Mr. Zopff from negotiating with a third party for the property in the meantime.

        “Zopff explicitly assured Midland that he would agree to an additional extension of the option period so that Midland (could) complete the rezoning process,” said Thomas Tepe, attorney for the developer. “Now, he refuses to cooperate.”

        Mr. Zopff declined to comment on the lawsuit, deferring questions to his lawyer, Robert Peeler.

Owner denies allegations
        “We deny any allegations that Mr. Zopff has done anything but cooperate whenever (Midland) asked him to,” said Mr. Peeler, Mason's prosecutor and a private attorney with Peeler, McGary & Zopff.

        “They are trying to tie up this property, thinking that by doing this it may force Mr. Zopff to change his mind. But Mr. Zopff lived up to his end of the bargain and he expects Midland to do the same.”

        Mr. Peeler said Midland can purchase the land now, but no further extensions will be granted. He said he intends to file a motion this week disputing Midland's allegations against Mr. Zopff.

        Midland Atlantic wants Mason officials to rezone the 38-year-old golf course for retail business, high-tech offices and single-family homes. The company plans to build 130 houses, an office park and a shopping center, which would include a Kroger.

        The proposal ran up against a groundswell of opposition from neighboring residents during two public hearings in April and May. The Mason Planning Commission rejected the proposal last month because it did not comply with the city's comprehensive land-use plan.

Conflicting sides
        Rather than scrap the plan entirely, Midland Atlantic plans to take a modified proposal before Mason City Council. That proposal is scheduled for review Monday.

        According to the lawsuit, Midland entered into a 90-day contract with Mr. Zopff for the exclusive right to purchase Western Row Golf Course in October. The developer paid Mr. Zopff $500 for those rights and the option to extend the contract.

        Before the end of the contract, Midland gave Mr. Zopff another $249,500, to be applied to the final purchase price of $9.2 million, to extend the option period on the property to June 1. When it became evident Midland would not be able to secure zoning by June 1, the company asked Mr. Zopff to extend the contract until October 1.

        He refused.

        Mr. Tepe said his client believes that this refusal constitutes a breach of contract because their agreement states “during the option period, (Mr. Zopff) agrees to cooperate and assist (Midland) in any and all efforts to obtain rezoning of the premises.”


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