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Ashby Highrise trial begins today

This has been a long time coming.

Sue me!

The case in state District Judge Randy Wilson’s court will begin Tuesday and is expected to last four weeks. A jury will hear from the parties involved and experts on both sides to decide whether the project would substantially interfere with the residents’ property rights.

If they rule for the residents, jurors could decide to award damages. The court also has discretion to issue an injunction limiting the size and scope of the project or stopping it altogether.

Jean Frizzell, a Houston-based attorney for the neighborhood group, said his side will present traffic, foundation and architectural experts and a horticulturist to address the potential impact of the high-rise on the Southampton neighborhood. Residents will also testify, he said.

“There are high-rises all over Houston. What’s different about this project is where it’s located,” Frizzell said. “We are not anti-development, per se. This is simply too high-density of a building and there is not enough infrastructure to support it.”


Josh Blackman, assistant professor at the South Texas College of Law, who specializes in property law, said this case will be monitored closely by developers and by neighborhood groups fighting projects.

“This is really breaking new ground,” Blackman said. “This is the furthest that any residents have tried to challenge something in Houston history. It will set a precedent for what happens with future developments.”

He said a ruling in favor of the neighbors may deter developers and give credence to neighborhood efforts.

“If this is successful, this is one more tool in the arsenal of the neighborhood,” Blackman said. “If the developers win, it shows you aren’t going to win in this town.”

See here for the previous update, and here for all posts tagged “Ashby Highrise”. As you know, my sympathies lie with the neighborhood – I have always agreed that the problem with this development is that it’s in the wrong place – but I’ve never believed they could do anything about it. The project is legal by city standards, and I just don’t think they’re going to be able to show that they’ve been damaged in a way that merits redress. If property values are rising in the neighborhood, it may be hard to show they’ve been damaged at all. On a broader note, while I believe neighborhoods need to have more tools at their disposal to exercise some say over what gets built, it needs to be done within a regulatory framework. Leaving it to the courts is guaranteed to be more chaotic and uneven, and only available to the wealthiest neighborhoods. I’ll be interested to see what evidence the plaintiffs present to back up all the claims they’ve been making over the years, but I remain very skeptical of this.

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