City Hall

City Sued Over Council's Refusal to Give Lower Greenville Bowling Alley a Late-Night Permit

One month ago, after a lengthy discussion, the Dallas City Council voted not to give a late-night specific use permit to a bowling alley being proposed for the old Lucky's Roadhouse space, next to Good Records on Greenville Avenue. Pauline Medrano -- who, with Angela Hunt, co-wrote the Planned Development District ordinance that makes SUPs necessary for anyone wishing to stay open till 2 a.m. -- said she was casting a nay because "Lowest Greenville deserves a more balanced neighborhood -- more shopping, more community retail." The rest of the council followed suit, echoing the City Plan Commission's recommendation to deny the permit.

But Susan Reese, who owns the property, refuses to let the council have the final word on the subject: On Tuesday she sued the city in Dallas County District Court, claiming in court documents that follow that the ordinance is "unlawful" -- a downright "conspiracy against bars in Lower Greenville," per the writings of Jackson Walker attorney Michael Knapek.

The suit, which is packed with neighborhood association letters and Unfair Park items offered as exhibits, recounts the history of the ordinance, which Hunt and Medrano began drafting in 2009 as a way to curb crime along that stretch of concrete. Said Hunt in our 2010 cover story on the subject, "Annually taxpayers are spending at least a quarter of a million dollars to babysit the drunks on Lower Greenville after midnight. And we're not going to expend taxpayers' money to create an oasis for frat boys and gang-bangers to get their swerve on."

Knapek says that Reese and other property owners were always "skeptical" of the proposed ordinance: "Concern was expressed that the SUP factors were too subjective and that the process was a pretext to strip tenants and landlords of their property rights." But, says the suit, city officials told them not to worry, that "the Late-Night SUP would involve simple hoop-jumping" and that the ordinance was intended solely to rid Lower Greenville of "bad actors." According to the suit:

Hunt in particular conveyed to Reese that she could pretty much guarantee that a new establishment, like the prospective bowling alley tenant of Plaintiffs Lower Greenville Avenue Trust and Reese, would be granted the Late-Night SUP. This made sense, as the prospective tenant of Lower Greenville Avenue Trust and Reese, a new establishment, could literally fail none of the factors outlined in the Late-Night SUP provision of the Ordinance, as it applies on its face only to an existing "establishment." Comfortable with the process as explained by Hunt and the City, Plaintiffs put their full support behind the ordinance, even joining Hunt at a public hearing. Shortly after the Ordinance was enacted, tenants and property owners, including Plaintiffs, realized they had been duped.
As far as Reese and her attorney are concerned, only the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has the right to do what the city's doing ("control bars"), and the city's ordinance violates the Texas Constitution and is a "fundamentally improper zoning law" -- some among myriad reasons they give for overturning the ordinance. The whole thing follows. We'll have more later: When I asked the City Attorney's Office for a response, I was told the city hadn't even seen the filing.

Update at 2 p.m.: First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers has now read the lawsuit and responds with a simple, "The City believes its zoning ordinance is valid and will vigorously defend it."

Lawsuit Over Lower Greenville Planned Development District Ordinance

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky