Village Market can stay, judge rules


By Joe Tash


A Vista Superior Court judge has issued a final ruling in a lawsuit between the owners of the Village Market in Rancho Santa Fe and the owners of the building where the market is located, clearing the way for the market to remain open in its present location through 2029.

The ruling was issued Sept. 22 by Judge Robert P. Dahlquist, who presided over a jury trial in the case last May. Both the jury and the judge found in favor of Stump’s Market, the owners and operators of the Village Market.

On the other side in the legal case was the owner of the building and property on which it stands, Roger Woolley and his company, Plaza de Santa Fe Ltd., LLC. Woolley, who had been in failing health, died May 28, two days after the jury issued its verdict.

Market owner James Stump sued in March 2009, alleging that Woolley had attempted to raise the rent for the market in violation of a lease agreement, and also failed to fulfill an agreement to pay part of the repair costs for water-damaged crossbeams beneath the market’s floor.

Woolley then counter-sued, seeking to terminate Stump’s lease on the property and force the market out.

Both the judge and jury ruled in favor of Stump’s Market on most of the issues raised in the lawsuit and counter-suit. In his judgment, Dahlquist ruled that Stump’s Market can legally remain on the premises until November 2014, the end of its current lease, and that it has three additional five-year option periods which run through November 2029.

The market must pay the rent outlined in its lease, 2 percent of gross sales, wrote the judge. The lease also contains a minimum monthly rent of $3,632, for the 9,600-square-foot market, which Stump’s has operated since 1994.

According to Ron Frank, the attorney for Stump’s Market, his clients plan to continue operating the Village Market.

“Their intention is to stay,” said Frank. “One reason the Stumps brought this lawsuit so aggressively is that they wanted to continue to serve the community, and stay in Rancho Santa Fe for the benefit of customers and their employees. The Stumps’ intentions always have been for the long-term, they desire to stay for the long haul.”

The judge also ordered Plaza de Santa Fe to pay Stump $116,859 for its share of repairs and a refund of overpaid maintenance costs, and ruled that Stump’s Market is entitled to receive court costs and attorney fees, which Frank said are about $1 million.

Charles LiMandri, the attorney for the Woolley family and Plaza de Santa Fe, did not return a telephone message by presstime.