PORTSMOUTH – City officials plan to reach out to Jim Boyle as soon as next week in an attempt to settle their more than decade-long legal battle with the Toyota of Portsmouth owner.

Mayor Jack Blalock said city officials are working on “setting a time and date to meet hopefully next week with Jim Boyle and his attorney to talk about a settlement.”

Blalock’s comments on Thursday come a day after the City Council met in a non-public session to talk about their next steps in their long and expensive legal battle with Boyle.

Boyle recently blocked Portsmouth’s attempt to take 4.6 acres of his land next to his car dealership off of the Route 1 Bypass by eminent domain.

The city has said repeatedly it needed to take Boyle’s land to protect a sewer line that runs through the property and to improve storm water management in the area.

But Superior Court Judge N. William Delker ruled on Oct. 22 that “the city has not established a sufficiently compelling public need to take all 4.6 acres in fee simple absolute under the statutory authority upon which it relied.”

Blalock said the council also discussed “what we hope could happen in settlement negotiations going forward.”

He declined to comment if the council made any decision on appealing Delker’s ruling. They have 30 days since the release of the ruling to file an appeal.

The council also received a “general overview” about the history of the dispute, Blalock said.

“Some councilors hadn’t really been privy to all of the history and needed to get up to speed about what has transpired,” Blalock said.

Delker’s decision is the latest in a series of more than 14 years of legal battles between Toyota of Portsmouth and the city, and gives Boyle another major legal victory.

In a separate case, a Rockingham Superior Court jury in 2017 ordered the city to pay Boyle $3.57 million for lost profits from his Greenleaf Avenue dealership property due to the city sewer line that runs through the property the city has now taken.

That verdict was appealed to the state Supreme Court by both sides.

John Kuzinevich, Boyle’s attorney, confirmed on Friday he and his client will meet with city officials next week to try to reach a settlement.

“Mr. Boyle and I are cautiously optimistic that there will be a good and frank dialogue toward settlement,” Kuzinevich said. “We’re particularly encouraged it appears that the City Council is more actively involved in the process than on previous occasions.”

In terms of what it would take to settle the cases, he would not offer any specifics but said “both sides have significantly more information than during the last tentative settlement.”

“In particular, the fact that Mr. Boyle got his land back and the eminent domain was set aside provides significant information for both sides,” Kuzinevich said.

He believes “there’s the potential” for a settlement because as the mayor indicated there are new members on the City Council.”

“We hope these are people who can come in and perhaps look more objectively at the situation and allow the dialogue to go to next level,” he said.

Boyle has said he spent $3 million on lawyers, engineers and environmental experts fighting the city in an effort to try to develop the remainder of his 14-acre property.

Boyle said he spent “17 years of my life” trying to add a luxury car dealership and potentially a commercial truck dealership on his property, but has been stymied by city officials at every turn, he said.

If he had been able to build two more dealerships on the property he’d make an estimated $2 million more in revenue and triple the more than $100,000 he pays each year in property taxes, Boyle said previously.

Delker in his eminent domain ruling stated that “regardless of whether Boyle can develop the land in the way he wants or not, there can be no question that removing private ownership of the property imposes a burden on him.”

“When as here the private interest outweighs the public need, the condemnation is not justified.” Delker ruled, then sustained Boyle’s objection to the land taking and ordered the city’s condemnation of the property “must be set aside.”