Appeals Court Hands East Village Sam's Club Opponents a Big Win

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Dallas City Hall took a big head-slam yesterday in the Cityplace Sam’s Club suit. 5th Court of Appeals Judge David J. Schenck shot down the city’s argument that neighbors had no right to sue over a big-box store on the east side of Central Expressway north of Haskell Avenue.

Schenck (decision below) sent the case back to the trial court to decide whether the zoning for the Sam’s Club is legal. But he upheld the city and denied the neighbors on their request for an injunction to stop work on the project.

Umm …what?

Yeah, it’s a mess. It means Trammell Crow Co. can keep working on the 16.5 acre Sam’s Club, already well underway,  but they have to worry that a later court decision will tell them to tear it down.

Umm … what?

Yeah. Last year Judge Phyllis Lister Brown in Dallas rejected the city’s argument that the East Village Association, formed specifically to fight the Sam’s Club proposal, needed to shut up and die. The city argued that the association wasn’t a real nonprofit, didn’t even own any property near the Sam’s site and therefore “lacked standing” in the case — a legal term meaning it’s none of their business.

Lister said they are a nonprofit, they do own property nearby and they can sue if they want to. The city took all that to the appeals court last year. Yesterday’s ruling was the appeals court saying, yeah, the judge in Dallas was right. But not about the Sam’s Club.

Umm …

Look, the decision yesterday was just about whether the neighbors have the right to take the city to court for granting special zoning for this project. Now, the neighborhood association will have to go back to court and prove that the zoning the city gave Trammell Crow was bogus. If a court says it is bogus, then the project theoretically might have to be scrapped.

How would it be bogus? Ah, that’s another kettle of fish. The association is arguing that the notices sent out to neighbors about the zoning request for this thing were too tricky — worded obscurely so that normal people couldn’t tell the notice was telling them about a big-box store.

The notices did in fact say the zoning was for a big-box store, but way down deep in the notice after the notice sort of said it wasn’t for a big-box store.

Forget the courts. What about real life? On the one hand, in real life you could argue that if any notice about anything went out to neighbors with the name “Trammell Crow Company” on it — not just Trammell Crow in particular but any of these big-dog development companies – the neighbors should have taken it for a tall ship coming into port flying the Jolly Roger with a bunch of head-band eye-patch guys at the rail singing “yo-ho-ho.” Talk about a need to take a closer second read.

But on the other hand, you could say this. The Plan Commission and the city attorney and all those other people who are supposed to be working for us down there: Why are they fighting the neighborhood and working for the yo-ho-ho guys?

This movie’s not over.

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