A lawsuit City Councilman Jerry Ballas and his wife filed in 2003 over an infill project by their neighbors Jake and Jennifer Terzo remains unresolved despite a recent attempt by the Terzos to settle the case out of court.
In September the Terzos and their attorney, Darrel Moss, offered a settlement to Ballas’ attorney, Richard Baskett. The Terzos offered to tear down one of the two homes on the their property, but the house that originally inspired the lawsuit would remain on the lot. The Terzos claim Ballas previously indicated he would accept a comparable offer, and provided details about the negotiations to the Independent after Ballas rejected their terms.
“Mr. Ballas said that he wanted one house there [on the Terzos’ lot], and that was what we were offering him,” Moss says.
Baskett responded to the settlement offer in writing, saying, “Your letter provides a good starting point for discussion of a settlement of this case, but there are issues not brought out in your letter that have to be incorporated into any settlement.”
After receiving no further response from the Ballases or Baskett, the Terzos withdrew the offer.
Jake Terzo says he wanted a settlement because the suit has been a financial burden for him and his wife.
Ballas, who seeks reelection as Ward 4 representative, declined to comment for this story, referring all questions about the lawsuit to his attorney, who also declined to comment. But Ballas recently told the Independent the legal action had cost more and taken longer than he originally anticipated.
Ballas first filed suit four years ago against the Terzos, the city of Missoula, the Board of Adjustments, and Office of Planning and Grants after the Terzos altered boundary lines on their land to construct a second house under then-existing city rules allowing for increased density—rules that Ballas himself had voted to approve.
A decision on whether or not the Ballases can also sue Tony and Myrna Terzo, who currently own the home the settlement would have destroyed, has been appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.