Wednesday, August 26, 2009

DALLAS | A deal that would have ended the property dispute involving the site for George W. Bush’s presidential library at Southern Methodist University has fallen apart, lawyers on both sides of the case said Tuesday.

Two former condominium owners filed a lawsuit accusing the school of illegally taking control of a Dallas condo complex and forcing out the residents. Last month, former condo owners Gary Vodicka and Robert Tafel reached confidential agreements with SMU to end the dispute.

But SMU attorney Mark Lanier said Tuesday that Mr. Vodicka and Mr. Tafel have backed out of the settlement in a bid to try to squeeze more money from the school.

“A deal’s a deal in Texas,” Mr. Lanier said.

Officials hope to open the library in 2013, and it was not clear whether the dispute could threaten the target date.

Mr. Vodicka contended the deal with SMU fell apart after the university tried to expand the settlement beyond its original terms.

Mr. Vodicka said the purported bait-and-switch was the equivalent of SMU going to the grocery store to buy “milk, cereal, eggs and peanuts, and now they want filet mignon, trout almondine and red snapper.”

“I did not agree to any of that,” Mr. Vodicka said, “and if they want all that, then they have to pay for it.”

In 2005, the condo owners filed their lawsuit that claiming the university concealed its intention to use the condominium property for the Bush library. SMU has said the process of acquiring the complex was lawful and that it did not intend to bid for Mr. Bush’s presidential library when it began buying units in the development in 1999.

Lawrence Friedman, Mr. Tafel’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a message Tuesday seeking comment.

A court hearing is scheduled for Friday and the settlement dispute is likely to be discussed, the two sides said.

The lawsuit centers on SMU’s acquisition of University Gardens, a 40-year-old condominium complex across the street from the university.

SMU decided at the end of 1998 to begin buying up the approximately 350 units. It bought enough units to gain a majority of seats on the board of the homeowners’ association. The school filled those seats with SMU employees and others affiliated with the university who did not own units or live at the complex.

The university eventually bought out all but two condo owners - Mr. Vodicka, who had four units, and Mr. Tafel, who owned one unit.

SMU bulldozed the condos in 2006 and later that year, it became apparent the school would use the site for Mr. Bush’s library. The land upon which the condos once sat will be part of the facility’s grounds.

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