Developer in threat to sue councillors

IN AN unprecendented move a Dundalk developer has threatened to sue all twelve individual members of Dundalk Town Council (DTC) if his demands for a ‘land swap’ deal are not met.

IN AN unprecendented move a Dundalk developer has threatened to sue all twelve individual members of Dundalk Town Council (DTC) if his demands for a ‘land swap’ deal are not met.

Martin McCaughey of McCaughey Developments Ltd, has sent letters to each member of the DTC outlining his demands for the deal which would see a controversial site on Lower Point Road swapped for a piece of land on Mount Avenue.

The eleven-acre site on the Lower Point, which was bought for the purpose of building an apartment complex, was rezoned for recreational use in 2009 by the DTC, effectively costing McCaughey millions of euros.

Following a High Court decision that came down in favour of McCaughey, the developer now wants to push ahead and swap his accidentally rezoned land with a seven-acre site on the Mount Avenue Road.

In a letter which the Democrat has obtained, McCaughey outlines how he wishes the council to faciliate the land swap, but threatens that if the deal doesn’t go ahead, he will sue each councillor individually, as well as the Town Council.

The letters addressed to the councillors say, referring to the rezoning decision: “I wish to express my disappointment at this decision as I feel McCaughey Developments Ltd have not been treated fairly in relation to this matter. Indeed I am currently strongly advised by my legal representatives to pursue an action against Dundalk Town Council.

“They also advise me that this may involve legal action against each of the elected members personally over their action in relation to the zoning of the Lower Point Road lands.”

The letter then goes on to outline a proposal for the land swap, which could effectively get both parties out of a difficult position.

McCaughey says that for his part, he would agree not to sue the council, agree to withdraw any planning applications relating to the controversial site and an ancillary 0.83 acre site bought from the council for access, as well as rescind his acquisition of the smaller 0.83 acre site.

He also says he would build a range of pedestrian/cyclist infrastructure along the proposed site that he wishes to swap the land for at Mount Avenue, as well as realigning and upgrading the road along Mount Avenue.

In return he wants the council to make provisions for his new site at Mount Avenue, currently owned by the council, including all the associated services that he would need for a 50 house housing estate.

Yet McCaughey also warns in the second last paragraph of the letter: “I feel that this proposal offers a solution that is mutally beneficial to both parties and is worthy of full consideration before McCaughey Developments Ltd are forced, albeit reluctantly to commence legal proceedings against Dundalk Town Council and its elected members over their actions in relation to the zoning of the Lower Point Road.”

Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat, Chairperson of Dundalk Town Council, Marianne Butler told the paper that she had received her letter and that: “My own understanding is that individual councillors cannot be pursued in this manner.”

Cllr Butler says that she handed her letter in to the Town Clerk Frank Pentony.

“I gave my letter to the Town Clerk on Friday. I have not been approached by any other member of the council in relation to this, though I understand that Cllr Eamon O’Boyle has received a letter.

“This swap is not a no brainer. I understand that the land at Mount Avenue has associated debt, and that the council do not own it outright.

“This land swap would be unprecendented in any case, and I don’t think that it is as simple as has been laid out in the letter.”