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Suwanee city official says lawsuit is 'factually inaccurate'

Nick Masino

Nick Masino

SUWANEE -- Suwanee's city manager said Friday the claims laid out in a lawsuit accusing the city's former mayor of sabotaging a land deal were "factually inaccurate."

In a lawsuit filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court, Settles Bridge Farm in Suwanee accused Nick Masino, the former mayor who is now the vice president of economic development and Partnership Gwinnett at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, of interfering in a sales agreement to prevent a private Catholic school from building on the property.

The lawsuit said an email sent from Masino to the Suwanee City Council said that the surrounding residential community "would probably go nuts over" a school being built on the property.

Suwanee City Manager Marty Allen said the email came from him, not Masino.

"It was an email I had sent to the City Council," he said. "Me, I sent the letter that purportedly came from Nick."

Allen also said that Masino did not tip off city officials to the fact that Notre Dame Academy was seeking to relocate to the site, as the lawsuit claims.

"We were aware of the school looking around," Allen said.

Notre Dame Academy entered into a contract in 2008 with Settles Bridge Farm to buy about 36.5 acres of land near the intersection of Moore Road and Settles Bridge Road, a residential area in Suwanee. At the time of the deal, the city's zoning ordinances would have allowed a school to have been built on the property without approval or action from the city.

Days after the sales deal, the City Council held an emergency meeting and issued a moratorium on building permits for large projects in residential districts. In May 2008, the council approved a special use permit amendment to the city's zoning ordinances, which would require the school to have such a permit to develop the property.

The lawsuit, which is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Masino and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, alleges that Masino "intended to and ultimately succeeded in preventing SBF from selling the Property to Notre Dame."

Settles Bridge Farm previously sued the city of Suwanee, and Allen said that lawsuit is still pending.

In August, the city settled a lawsuit with Notre Dame Academy. The school dismissed the litigation, and the city paid a $257,000 financial settlement that reimbursed the school for all out-of-pocket expenses. The city paid $50,000 of that settlement, and the rest was paid by the city's insurance carrier.

Chamber of Commerce President Jim Maran said the chamber would have no comment on pending litigation.