A judge ruled Friday that Scottsdale did not cause unreasonable damage to Henry Becker’s property when it removed brush piles two years ago, ending a lawsuit that sought more than a half-million dollars in damages.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Jones granted Scottsdale’s motion for summary judgment, thus eliminating the need for a trial and canceling next week’s scheduled depositions of former City Manager Jan Dolan and councilmen Wayne Ecton and Tony Nelssen.
The judge agreed with Scottsdale Assistant City Attorney John Belatti, who argued that Becker — who has become known for his large candy canes and other displays on his vacant north Scottsdale property — has provided no evidence that the city acted unreasonably in its cleanup of 71 tons of brush and other debris.
As Jones was explaining his decision, Becker could sense his direction.
“I just want the truth,” Becker said to the judge.
This is the latest in a series of legal battles between Scottsdale and Becker, a one-time council candidate who has dotted his 96 acres of undeveloped land at the southeast corner of Pima and Happy Valley roads with what he calls artwork, but the city and some of his neighbors call blight.
In July 2006, following a city court order, Scottsdale cleared the brush from Becker’s property, calling it an imminent fire hazard. The candy canes and other displays were not touched to allow for an appeal.
A few months later, Becker cited about $189,000 in damages over 13 acres. A lawsuit was filed in January 2007. Nearly a year later, in December, Becker claimed $577,000 in damages over 42 acres. Becker argued that the city destroyed “pristine native desert vegetation.”
Jones’ decision does not affect the status of Becker’s candy canes, spherical objects and furniture.
Becker was ordered by the city in 2006 to remove those displays, but he has successfully won the right to appeal that city court decision. That court ruled Becker could not appeal the decision, but the Arizona Court of Appeals overturned that ruling.
A hearing date has not been set.
Becker also has another pending case related to the condemnation of his property for a water line.
In 2005, Becker made his only formal attempt to develop his land with a commercial project, but withdrew when he did not have support.
He bought the property in 1995 for $2.7 million.
Meanwhile, Becker is also leading an effort to recall councilmen Ecton and Bob Littlefield. Becker has until early May to turn in 3,980 valid signatures to force a vote.