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Judge won't dismiss vital part of Hermes' suit

A judge refused to dismiss crucial portions of Hermes Associates' $6.75 million suit against Riverdale but did dismiss a claim by Hermes that the city violated federal antitrust laws.

Both sides hailed the decision by 2nd District Judge Michael Glasmann as a victory."We feel strongly that the judge has made the correct decision," said David B. Coats, Hermes senior vice president. "We are sorry that these measures had to be used with Riverdale city, and we have never wanted anything other than to resolve our issues with the city."

The ruling, which attorneys received Wednesday, gives Hermes the right to take depositions from city officials about why it passed a new city master plan limiting the company's ability to develop land it owns.

Riverdale Attorney John Geilman said he considered the decision a victory, especially the dismissal of the federal antitrust claim.

"The reality of the thing is the judge did exactly what he needed to do," he said. "He didn't have enough facts to dismiss, so he said `we won't dismiss and now we go to summary judgment.' "

Geilman said the city has already filed a motion for summary judgment. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for April 1. Geilman said Glasmann will be asked to decide if the case warrants a trial.

Hermes is a Salt Lake City developer that has built several shopping centers in Riverdale. Changes to Riverdale's master plan last year stymied the firm's plans to build another one near the city offices.

Hermes sued the city last March, claiming Mayor Ben Jones and the planning commission conspired to stop it from building the new shopping center.

To prove conspiracy, Hermes argued it must take sworn depositions from the mayor and other city officials about their motives for the zoning changes. The city argued that Hermes couldn't do that, citing governmental immunity.

But Hermes argued, and Glasmann agreed, that the motivation of the city officials was the heart of the case and they should be allowed to depose officials.

Glasmann also said that Hermes could pursue its claim that the city violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against illegal seizure of property by depriving it of the value it would have gotten from developing its land.