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Round Two of Sam's Club Legal Fight Will Last Into Monday

The second act of the East Village Association's battle to reset the clock on a zoning change that would allow Trammell Crow to build a proposed 130,000-square-foot Sam's Club near Haskell Avenue and U.S. 75 will not be resolved until at least Monday afternoon, after Judge Phyllis Lister Brown was forced to end proceedings on Friday because of time constraints.

Despite being allotted four hours on the 162nd District Court's calendar, the temporary injunction hearing still has some way to go, with both the city of Dallas and Trammell Crow yet to present their sides of the case.

The plaintiff's case, which was all Judge Brown and a large crowd sporting "No Big Box" buttons heard today, centered on the notice of the zoning change obtained by Trammell Crow for its development. As it has since filing its lawsuit two weeks ago, the East Village Association claimed that the notice given the residents it represents was so incomplete that it was actually no notice at all. For their parts, the city, represented by Assistant City Attorney Chris Caso, said the notices were "perfect," while Trammell Crow's lawyers said the information the residents wanted was there, they just didn't look hard enough.

"I was deceived by what I had been told, what I had seen and what I had read," said David Shaw, an East Village Association member whose Carroll Avenue home would be less than 50 feet from the proposed Sam's.

Shaw noted his support on his returned zoning notice, he said, because the notice led him to believe that Trammell Crow was building a diverse development that will fit into the neighborhood. By the time he found out about the warehouse store from The Dallas Morning News, it was too late to protest the zoning, he said.

He didn't, as Trammel Crow lawyer Art Anderson suggested he should have if he was really curious, check out the full plan for the zoning online or trek down to City Hall to talk to someone in city planning.

Nor did any of his neighbors. They had no idea they needed to do so and shouldn't be expected to understand the vagaries of something as arcane as zoning, Anthony Ricciardelli, the plaintiff's attorney, argued.

After Shaw's testimony and some legal maneuvering over an audio recording from a June City Plan Commission, the rest of the proceedings were put off until after the weekend. The plaintiff is done presenting its case. At issue Monday will be the city's arguments that the notices it issued were proper.

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Should the judge feel that there is a high enough likelihood hood that they were not and grant the temporary injunction to prevent building during the trial, there will likely be an extended argument over bond.

A party granted relief in the form of a temporary restraining order or injunction must post a bond to cover damages incurred by its opponent should it later lose its case. Because the injunction in this case would only keep the city from doing something -- issuing building permits -- and not cost Dallas any money, the East Village Association is seeking a nominal bond.

Trammell Crow has a big problem with this. It's lawyers argue that the company will lose millions of dollars, so it wants a bond that would cover those losses should it prevail at trial. Jay Madrid, another of Trammell Crow's attorneys, said that the East Village Association has sued the city rather than Trammell Crow directly as a strategic move to keep the bond amount down, something Ricciardelli disputes.

The hearing is scheduled to pick back up at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

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