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Lawsuit over sale of former Dan River executive property — now Danville police headquarters — dismissed

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Police headquarters

A lawsuit filed in September 2021, which claimed the sale of the property that would later become the Danville Police Department’s new headquarters was fraudulent, was tossed out by a federal judge Tuesday.

A federal judge in Danville has tossed out a lawsuit that claimed the November 2019 sale of the former Dan River Inc. property — now the new city police headquarters — on Memorial Drive was fraudulent.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 13, 2021, by Tim Norton against Wilkins & Co. Realty, Inc., Wilkins & Company Inc., James Buckner, Ed Walker, RE Prospects LLC and 2291 Schoolfield LLC in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Virginia in Danville.

The bottom line of District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder’s decision was that Norton’s lawsuit was baseless.

“This case relies on abrogated [false] legal theories and speculation,” Schroeder wrote in his 52-page ruling that was filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit brought by Norton and his company, Norhurst Properties, Danville, LLC, claimed that Buckner, Walker and Wilkins & Co. were enriched in a $17.7 million deal by being able to “flip” the property at 2291 Memorial Drive to the Danville Police Department through a lease-purchase arrangement.

The lawsuit sought rescission — or reversal — of Norton/Norhurst’s sale of the property to developer Ed Walker and the companies, RE Prospects and 2291 Schoolfield. If the court granted the rescission, Norton and Norhurst would have replaced Walker in a deal Walker later made with the city.

Norton/Norhurst sold the property to Walker on Nov. 20, 2019, for $987,740, and then the city of Danville bought it from Walker on December 2020. The property is currently the new police department headquarters.

“Plaintiffs’ claims that they [Norton/Norhurst] would have sold or leased the property to the city are at best speculative and certainly not plausible on the allegations of the amended complaint,” Schroeder wrote in his opinion.

Attorneys for the defendants argued that the lawsuit was nothing but a case of “seller’s remorse” on the part of Norton and Norhurst.

“We are pleased, but certainly not surprised, at the court’s ruling,” Walker’s Richmond-based attorney, Hal Johnson, said Thursday.

State Sen. Chap Petersen, attorney for Norton/Norhurst, said he was “a little bit startled” by the judge’s dismissal of the case.

“It was a surprise to me,” said Petersen, D-Fairfax.

He said there were some misrepresentations that occurred that led to the lawsuit.

“We do plan to appeal,” Petersen said. “I need to talk to my client about that.”

Buckner’s attorney, James Daniel, said he and his client anticipated the lawsuit would be thrown out.

“We didn’t feel there was any basis for a lawsuit against Buckner,” Daniel said.

Buckner, a Danville city councilman and a real estate agent with Wilkins & Co., represented Walker in the deal and Hampton Wilkins represented Norton.

Walker told the Danville Register & Bee on Friday, “The allegations were meritless and untrue and this was a patently absurd, dramatically wasteful lawsuit. As far as I am aware, nobody involved ever did anything illegal, improper, unethical or even questionable.”

He said he was proud of the police department headquarters project, which the department deserved, he added. The campus there is “second-to-none in the Mid-Atlantic.

“The citizens and police force of Danville will benefit for decades to come,” he said.

Walker, an attorney, entrepreneur and developer, purchased the former site of the Danville Register and The Bee newspapers on South Union Street and converted it to a boutique hotel, The Bee. He also plans to turn the former doctors building across from the Sutherlin Mansion on Main Street into a boutique hotel.

He spearheaded downtown Roanoke’s redevelopment and was named 2014 Citizen of the Year by Roanoke City Council. Walker redeveloped the old Patrick Henry Hotel in Roanoke and renovated that city’s health department building and turned it into West End Flats.

He has also been behind historic redevelopment projects throughout Virginia, in areas also including Salem.

“I appreciate all of the support I’ve received from hundreds of citizens and community leaders as we endured this unnecessary and unsuccessful lawsuit,” Walker said.

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