Thursday, November 13, 2014
Michael Lewyn weighs in on the Ashby Highrise fiasco in Houston:
In the recent case of Loughead v. Buckhead Investment Partners, a group of Houston, Texas homeowners filed a common-law nuisance action to prevent a developer from building an apartment building in their neighborhood; the plaintiffs asserted (among other claims) that the apartments caused increased traffic—a claim that would be true of any new housing. Under the law of nuisance, a landowner may recover damages whenever another person uses their land in a manner that causes substantial, unreasonable harm to other landowners. A jury awarded the plaintiffs damages in December 2013, and the verdict will be appealed.
The landowners sued for nuisance because Houston has no zoning code and the city could therefore not legally exclude the apartments—but at common law, something permitted by zoning can still be an actionable nuisance. So if the Loughead action is upheld on appeal, landowners all over the country may become more willing to file nuisance actions to keep out multifamily housing (or for that matter, any other allegedly undesirable land use).