Judge could rule next week whether Opus can intervene

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | 8:27 p.m. CDT; updated 7:20 a.m. CDT, Thursday, August 28, 2014

COLUMBIA — A federal judge could rule next week whether Opus can intervene in the case that has halted construction of its planned Locust Street student housing building, according to court documents.

Opus Development Co. has been unable to obtain the permits it needs to proceed with the project because of a restraining order stemming from a lawsuit brought against the city by petitioners Betty Wilson and Michael MacMann. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs' rights to referendum and free speech were violated when the city kept moving the project along despite two petitions against it.

The developer, Opus Development Co., and the owner of the Locust Street site, HSRE ODC II MIZZOU, LLC, which are affiliated but separate entities, are not named in the lawsuit. Columbia attorney Thomas Harrison has filed a motion, though, to allow Opus to intervene.

The plaintiffs were given until Sept. 8 to respond to that motion.

Opus, though, wanted an answer sooner and  filed a motion to expedite the plaintiffs' response. The motion to expedite stated that "time is of the essence" because of the project's planned August 2015 completion date. The motion was the subject of a teleconference Wednesday afternoon involving District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey, plaintiffs' attorney Jeremy Root, city attorney Christopher Rackers and Opus' attorneys Harrison and Jason Asmus, according to court documents.

The plaintiffs responded the same day, arguing that Opus should not be allowed to intervene.

Laughrey ordered Opus to reply to the plaintiffs' response against its intervention by the end of the day Thursday or notify the court if no reply will be filed. According to court documents, there will be another teleconference next week on pending motions.

Supervising editor is Landon Woodroof.

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