TRAVERSE CITY — A bitter lawsuit that had its roots in a 2004 zoning dispute ended today in 13th Circuit Court, when Meijer and The Village of Grand Traverse agreed to pay five Acme Township officials a combined $1.5 million.
Acme planning Commissioners Robert Carstens and Clare David, as well as Trustees Ron Hardin, Erick Takayama and Frank Zarafonitis, each will receive $300,000 before taxes and attorney fees.
The Acme officials said they settled for several reasons, and cited lawsuit stress, a need for the community to heal, and their hope the award was sufficient to deter Meijer and other developers from abusing local governments.
“Every one of these people suffered a great deal of stress and the impact on our lives and our families was terrible,” Takayama said. “We all felt this was enough of a fine, enough of a settlement cost to Meijer, that there was a lesson that this is not the path to take for developers.”
Unnamed Meijer officials said in a joint press release they regretted the situation that led to the suit. They apologized to the community and individuals affected by their actions.
Lawyers for Meijer and Dickinson Wright refused comment on Wednesday. An official with The Village said he wanted to close the door on a case that inflamed the Acme community.
“I just think it’s in everybody’s interest to move on, and I’m happy to have this behind me,” said Steve Smith, The Village’s managing partner. “I’ve never been in litigation before in my life, and I regret that litigation resulted from this.”
Acme officials alleged that Meijer, The Village, and their former attorneys, Dickinson Wright PLLC and Timothy Stoepker, intentionally harmed them through a frivolous lawsuit, illegal campaign activity and secret financial support of a citizens group that harassed them.