Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jury Verdict in Controversial Ashby High Rise Case

Ashby signAn important jury verdict this week awards nuisance damages to residential neighbors of a prospective high-rise development. 

If you're one of the 6 million people living near Houston, Texas--or if you've been anywhere near one of my classrooms in the past 6 years--you know all about the controversy over the so-called "Ashby High Rise," a proposed 20+ story residential development that is planned for street that has a mix of uses surrounded by primarily single-family residential housing.  The site is in an affluent area very near downtown, midtown, and other centers in Houston.  The proposal has been highly controversial and has gotten steady local and occasional national media attention as an important land-use battle.

As you know, Houston is the Unzoned City, the only major American city without a traditional Euclidean zoning code.  But you may not realize, though, that Houston nonetheless has an extensive regime of land use controls, which I call "de facto zoning."  The gist of this story is that after five years of political and legal dispute, the City of Houston awarded the building permit, and the opponents' last-ditch effort this year was a nuisance lawsuit.  On Tuesday, the jury awarded $1.7 million in nuisance damages to certain of the neighboring landowners if the project gets built.  The judge will rule on the injunction request next month.

(Full disclosure: I testified as an expert for the defense at the trial).  I'll have a lot more to say about this case, but for now, the link above will take you to the initial story with the news.  As you can probably already tell, there are many interesting and important land use issues to unpack here.

Matt Festa

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