After the conclusion of arguments that started Friday morning, District Judge Phyllis Lister Brown ruled against a neighborhood group seeking a temporary injunction aimed at stopping construction of a 130,000-square-foot Sam's Club store near the intersection of Haskell Avenue and U.S. 75.
The decision means the city can issue building permits for builder Trammel Crow while a lawsuit challenging a zoning that allows the store goes forward.
Members of the East Village Association, the neighborhood group suing the city, showed up decked out in red and wearing "No Mega Store" buttons to hear Trammell Crow's and the city's arguments against granting the injunction. K.C. Bills, a senior associate in Trammell Crow's business unit, testified the company could end up in default on its loans for the development if work was delayed, and he disputed residents' claims that they could be injured if the Sam's Club is built.
Under the loan agreement Trammell Crow entered into to finance construction, it stood to lose at least $5,000 for each day work on the project is delayed. By the end of 2015, Bills said, demolition on the 12-story Xerox building that is on the site needs to be completed. If it isn't Trammell Crow would be in default on its loan, as it would be if it failed to meet several other construction milestones.
Bills also produced a chart showing the sales values per square foot of homes sold near the site both before and after plans for the Sam's Club were revealed in The Dallas Morning News. Values for the homes -- 16 before the announcement and 13 after -- rose slightly, which Jay Madrid, one of Trammell Crow's attorneys, suggested meant the Sam's Club would benefit the neighborhood around it.
Assistant City Attorney Chris Caso asserted that the notice given to residents by the city of the proposed zoning change was good enough, and if neighbors had really wanted to know what was going to be in the development, they should have done more research. Caso even narrated an extended imagined phone call between a resident and Megan Wimer, a senior planner with the city, in which the imaginary resident was easily able to obtain information about the potential Sam's Club.
Despite her repeatedly stating that the process lacked transparency, Judge Brown ruled the burden of evidence required for a temporary injunction had not been met.
Speaking to the neighbors in the courtroom, Brown said: "The court is concerned with the lack of transparency, but the court is bound by the law."
"We're very pleased the court heard all the evidence and followed the law," Scott Dyche, Trammell Crow Co.'s general council said. "We're excited about starting building on this great project."
Despite the setback, Anthony Ricciardelli, the East Village Association's attorney, vowed to fight on.
"This is not the end of the road," he said. Ricciardelli intends to take the case to trial whether he and his clients appeal the temporary injunction ruling or not. Helpful to his cause was Judge Brown's finding that the East Village Association did have proper standing to sue the city on behalf of the residents, something the city and Trammell Crow had disputed.
If the case does go to trial and East Village Association prevails, any development on Trammell Crow's site could conceivably need to be torn down.