Manassas Journal Messenger | Sale frozen on Haymarket grocery

The $1.5 million land sale deal under negotiation between the Town of Haymarket and Manassas businessman Creston M. Owen hit a snag Monday.

After a closed session, town council members unanimously agreed to tell Owen’s attorney they couldn’t move forward on the land sale at the present time, noting a lis pendens on part of the property.

“While in litigation, our attorney says we should not negotiate the contract because of the lis pendens. But we’re still moving forward.” Haymarket Mayor John R. “Jack” Kapp said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We just have to wait for litigation to run its course.”

A lis pendens is a legal document filed with the Circuit Court’s land records division that notifies those viewing property records that the property is in litigation. Such a document essentially freezes any transaction on a property.

“My understanding is until litigation is cleaned up on the property, they can’t sell a building they’re being sued on. It’s certainly a delay,” Owen said in a phone interview Tuesday.

In Haymarket, the block of downtown Owen is seeking to purchase includes the building housing the Haymarket Grocery as well as several other buildings. The grocery building was condemned in January, and boarded up in June.

The owner of the Haymarket Grocery Inc., John J. Jinn, filed a $5 million lawsuit against the town July 28, “for damages for breach of contract and fraud,” according to the bill of complaint filed July 29. Jinn’s attorney also filed the lis pendens on the grocery building, 15000 Washington St., halting the town’s dealings with Owen.

“I’m sure the town council will do what’s necessary to protect the town and honor the written agreement signed with me,” Owen said.

Owen said he was referring to the letter of intent to purchase the property, which the town council accepted in April. The first draft of a sale agreement between Owen and the town, drafted July 11, was under discussion in the council’s closed session Monday.

“I thoroughly understand if the town needs to postpone due to a lawsuit, we’ll be happy to wait,” Owen said. But he also noted there were other opportunities for development in the area, citing a condominium project in Manassas he’s working on and development opportunities in Dumfries he could pursue.

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