Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's not as Simple as You Think - The Latest in the Ashby Mess

Buckhead Investment Partners is now suing the City of Houston for its denial of permits on the Ashby High Rise.

This isn’t just about a rich neighborhood fighting a rich developer’s bad idea. It’s about land-use and regulations in the City of Houston. And it’s about a lawsuit that could have huge implications for our City.

Land-use battles happen all over the City of Houston, and often the City falls on the side of neighborhoods. It’s usually in middle, working class, and poor neighborhoods. The Carnival Night Club in Sharpstown. NRP’s Costa Del Rey Apartments in Southwest Houston. The Magnolia Glen Homeless Shelter in Eastwood. SCC’s Concrete Crushing Plant in Sunnyside. The list goes on. All of these are projects that were either killed or fundamentally changed after neighbors protested.

It’s rare, though, that the developers of these failed projects sue; much less for the eye-popping sum of $40 million. That’s a lot of money. If Buckhead Investment Partners wins, The City of Houston might have to back out of its end of the Dynamo Stadium deal (a move that could cost us our major league soccer team). The City might not be able to fix the hundreds of derelict properties it owns. The Candlelight Trails Condominiums could be around for a bit longer; and neighborhoods might not get the Capital Improvement Projects we ask for.

This is to say nothing of the precedent that Buckhead’s lawsuit could set. Will developers now sue every time their permits are denied? Will the City have to reimburse architects for the time they spend revising drawings per City comment?

We shall see. At any rate, the Ashby mess shows no sign of going away.

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