Takoma Park, MD, April 27, 2021 – Today, the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op (the Co-op) filed a lawsuit against The Neighborhood Development Company, L.L.C. (NDC) and the City of Takoma Park (City) in Montgomery County Circuit Court, seeking to nullify an April 15 demand by NDC that would violate the terms of the Cooperation Agreement between NDC and the Co-op by permanently evicting the Co-op from the City-owned lot where the Co-op takes its deliveries The eviction would take effect as of May 15. NDC also demanded that the Co-op immediately stop taking deliveries there.
“NDC has no basis to throw us off the City lot or stop our deliveries,” said Mike Houston, the Co-op’s General Manager. Houston said that NDC and the City have falsely claimed unsafe food delivery operations by the Co-op’s vendors, although the City retracted its allegations last week. “Neither the developer nor the City has presented the Co-op with any evidence of unsafe or illegal operation,” he continued. “And we have always complied with our Sub-Lease with NDC. We pay our rent, we fully indemnify NDC and the City for anything that could happen on the lot, and we have insurance coverage that includes NDC and the City.”
Mr. Houston noted that the Co-op is protected from NDC’s demands by a 2018 Cooperation Agreement negotiated by the Co-op and NDC with the support of the City. “In exchange for our agreement not to oppose NDC’s development proposal for the City lot, NDC made a firm commitment to allow the Co-op to continue to use the lot for deliveries until construction begins,” explained Houston. “We are very upset that NDC has violated our agreement and jeopardized our deliveries, the lifeline of any grocery store.” Houston continued, “We view NDC’s action as unwarranted interference with our business and harassment of our suppliers.”
Diane Curran, the Co-op’s Board President, said that the City was included in the lawsuit as a defendant for its key role in the matter. “As NDC’s landlord and business partner, the City has the authority to require NDC to retract its unlawful and abusive demands.” Curran noted the City has asked NDC to withdraw its demands, but has not exercised its full legal authority to force compliance. “The City and NDC are partners, as the City has often publicly said, and the City is NDC’s landlord. Therefore, the City should prevail on its partner to rescind these baseless demands entirely,” said Curran.
“The City’s unfounded allegations did us great damage by giving NDC cover for its unsupported eviction notice,” she said. Nevertheless, she called the City’s subsequent retraction of the allegations a “hopeful sign.” The City “has always supported us as an important and essential business in this community, and we are hopeful the City will now further exercise its authority to restore the Co-op’s right to use the City lot for deliveries.”
Both Mr. Houston and Ms. Curran expressed regret that the Co-op was forced to take such an extreme measure as litigation to resolve their clear right to continue to take deliveries on the City lot. “We did everything we could to avoid going to court,” said Ms. Curran. “Unfortunately, we have been forced to react to City and NDC actions.”
The Co-op’s efforts included meeting with NDC representatives in mid-March, without a lawyer present as requested by NDC. At the meeting, in response to NDC’s alleged concerns about the safety of Co-op deliveries, the Co-op asked NDC to substantiate its claims, but NDC provided no information at or after the meeting. Instead, NDC’s subsequent eviction notice mischaracterized the conversation by formally accusing the Co-op of failing to document a lack of safety problems with Co-op deliveries.
“We have an exemplary 20-plus year safety record that speaks for itself,” said Houston. “It begs the question – what is the true motivation for these accusations? Whatever the answer, we will seek our remedies in court,” Houston said.
Despite the threats from NDC, the community-owned grocery store in the heart of Takoma Park remains open for regular business, as it has been for 40 years, 7 days a week, 8 AM to 10 PM.