(Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)

Wheat Ridge faces $700K lawsuit after pot store plan nixed

WHEAT RIDGE — A man with dreams of building a cannabis shop and grow house on a quiet corner in Wheat Ridge is planning to sue the city for $700,000 after what he says was a broken promise that has cost him much of his investment.

Babak Behzadzadeh, a businessman who lives in Cherry Hills Village, accuses Wheat Ridge officials of assuring him and his partners for weeks that all was well with his plan last summer to locate a pot store at the southeast corner of Miller Street and West 38th Avenue.

He felt comfortable enough with the prospects for city approval that he paid $650,000 for the lot in July and within a few weeks spent $50,000 removing the underground tanks of a long-time gas station.

“The gas station that was there was a disaster,” Behzadzadeh said. “Wheat Ridge didn’t want it.”

He said city planning staff even told him he would face a streamlined approvals process for his pot facility if the gas tanks were gone.

But that spirit of cooperation quickly vanished after a group of neighbors caught wind of the project. Community ire prompted city leaders in August to put in place a moratorium on any new marijuana businesses.

“Once the locals came out against it, they ran for cover,” Behzadzadeh said of the city.

And last week, the city council passed new pot regulations that essentially jettison Behzadzadeh’s plan by capping the number of cannabis businesses in the city to the number that exist now — five shops and three product manufacturing facilities.

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Behzadzadeh said the new cap has devalued the land and he’s now sitting on a parcel that is worth less than half of what he paid for it. He officially has notified Wheat Ridge that he plans to sue on grounds of “promissory estoppel” — that the city’s broken promise cost him his investment.

“(The city) changed the rules of the game in the middle of our agreement,” he said.

But Wheat Ridge Councilman Tim Fitzgerald said while Behzadzadeh and his business partners were victims of “unbelievably bad timing,” the city did nothing wrong.

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This story was first published on DenverPost.com