March 01, 2009
Is there an Ashby highrise lawsuit coming?

Houston Politics makes an observation.

As noted previously, the flap over the proposed Ashby high-rise and all the land-use questions stirred up by that controversy have subsided recently as the recession and credit crunch slowed or stopped many high-profile development projects. But that may be about to change.

The project's developers, Matthew Morgan and Kevin Kirton, made a presentation Wednesday to a group of "young leaders" from the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit development organization. Neither my colleague Nancy Sarnoff nor I, who have followed this project, could attend, but today I saw this timeline that was part of their presentation.

The juiciest bit is the last two sentences: "The developer is exhausting its administrative options, and hopes the city will issue the necessary development permits. If denied, the developer will exercise all legal rights to force the issuance of its development permits for the project."

Since March of last year, Morgan and Kirton have submitted various versions of their permit application eight times, and the city has rejected it eight times.

Since one definition of insanity is taking the same action repeatedly and expecting a different result, some observers have speculated that the developers were building a record for a lawsuit. The language in their timeline shows they're prepared to take this step, whether or not it's been part of their strategy all along.

The developers are portraying this case as an example of heavy-handed and inequitable city regulation that all developers should worry about. How much support they'll get from their industry colleagues if they choose to go to court remains to be seen.

Well, I suggested the developers might sue back in October, so this doesn't surprise me. I'll note that the neighborhood residents have also threatened to sue if this does go forward, so one way or the other I figure this winds up in court. Assuming the economy doesn't put it to a quiet death, of course.

UPDATE: Swamplot has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 01, 2009 to Elsewhere in Houston

"I'll note that the neighborhood residents have also threatened to sue if this does go forward, so one way or the other I figure this winds up in court."

The threat really is that Vinson & Elkins will sue the city which apparently was a threat the two "co-chairs" of the "opposition movement" who are partners at Vinson & Elkins made in the beginning when the city in essence pulled permits it had already issued.

The use of "traffic concerns" is ludicrous given the number of "mega-complexes" going up in the same area which will definitely impact traffic but which the city has not applied the same "standard" to and that of course will be the "standard" the developers will use to sue the city over.

Either way the mayor and the other elected officials who pandered to a law firm instead of serving the public interest will have cost that taxpayers who will have to pay for the city to defend itself no matter who sues.

Among those elected officials are Annise Parker and Peter Brown. To whom quite a few are already saying "thanks, but no thanks" and doing so because of this.

We elect our officials to represent our interests. Not the interests of a law firm. Certainly not the interests of two partners of a law firm.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on March 1, 2009 11:29 AM
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