Les Coffey, owner of Peerless Self Storage and the Peerless Mills site, filed the civil suit. He claimed he owned sewerage lines on the site and the city owes him $985,000 for using them. Coffey was arrested Feb. 16 when he threatened to pour concrete in the lines to block their use.
Judge Harold Murphy, in a 52-page summary issued Thursday in U.S. District Court in Rome, said, “The court declares that plaintiff (city of Rossville) has an express easement for the sewer line at issue, and that other express easements exist for the remaining sewer lines that defendant (Peerless Self Storage) contends cross the property.”
The judge’s ruling recognizes a 1958 deed and easement between Burlington Industries and the city of Rossville, said Andy Davis, the city’s attorney. It also referenced the deed between RDC Inc., which sold the property to Coffey and still holds a lien on it, and Peerless Self Storage, he said.
Peerless Woolen Mills was established in 1905, the same year Rossville was incorporated as a city, by John L. Hutcheson Sr. of Sweetwater, Tenn. The city boomed during World War II, as Peerless was the primary manufacturer of woolen blankets for the armed services. By the 1950s Peerless had become the largest single-unit mill in the world, leading America’s dominance of the textile market, with more than 3,000 employees.
In 1952 the operation merged with Burlington Industries, a large textile maker, and was then taken over by the Hutcheson family and Rossville Development Corp.
The plant closed in 1962 after a vote to unionize. The facility continued to be used eventually by more than a dozen industries that rented space at the site, but a huge fire in June 1967 shuttered its doors for good.
In 2007 Les Coffey bought the 27-acre site and its buildings for more than $1.3 million from the Hutcheson family and RDC Inc. Coffey says he has spent more than $800,000 to improve the site.
Since that time he has had ongoing disputes with the city, including legal actions. He claims the city has essentially harassed him, blocked his efforts to attract tenants and turn the site into a profitable business venture, and forced him into bankruptcy.
In February Coffey obtained a permit from the city to demolish the buildings and renovate the property into a metal recycling scrap yard and waste transfer station. RDC Inc., as the property's lien-holder, has blocked the demolition plans with a court injunction.