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

Categories: Development

SamsCityplaceTrammellCrow.jpg
Trammell Crow
This site was the subject of much legal wrangling Friday (again).

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.

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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18 comments
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

On display?  I had to take the freight elevator down to the subbasement, go down two flights of stairs in a dimly lit stairwell, go through an office door marked storage, past three men sitting at desks collating paper clips, through a restroom door marked "Do Not Enter", through a hole in the wall where a door used to be and finally to a storage room marked "Janitor's Closet" where, lit by  a single naked light bulb, was a filing cabinet marked "Archival Files" and in the bottom drawer, at the very back of the drawer in an old water stained folder labeled "Main Street Christmas Decorations -- 1937" in a most wonderful Spencerian script, I found a note that said: "For the East Village MU-3 Zoning Ordinance, please contact Gerald Jones Room 14 Old City Hall"


I later found out that Gerald Jones had retired 12 years ago and that his former assistant, Gladys, told me that I had to file of "Freedom of Information Request" and she warned me that the City would send a "Request for Opinion" to the State Attorney General in order to find out if they had to give it to me.


I told Gladys that the hearing before the planning board was in  a few days whereupon she told me that "A lack of planning by me does not create a sense of urgency for her."


Oh well.


PS:  Please let Jim Schutze know that I passed an office with a sign on the door that said Mary Su.  I couldn't make out the last two letters of the name.  It was a wonderfully appointed office, complete with a very majestic throne.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

"It appears the City Staff cheated you guys fair and square.  I am denying the TRO." 

I bet she doesn't do it.

smichaelclark59
smichaelclark59

lucky the Association could afford legal representation.  The city did the same thing to my neighborhood 4 years ago.   They secretly tried to build a low income section 8 fifty five and older apartment building next to our new subdivision driving down the prices of our homes.  They put the zoning change sign purposely in the woods hidden by trees so noone could see it and know what was about to happen.  When we did see it and  called for a meeting with the city it was too late.  Deal was done.  Now we can't sell our homes without a loss and no one wants to buy them next door to a section 8 rental apartment complex.

John Wiley Price is not the only crook downtown.  City staff is full of wrong doers also and should be investigated also and punished.

unclescrappy
unclescrappy

So they are suing in essence saying "We are too dumb to understand normal legal stuff. So you need to spell out every little detail for us, just in case" YEAH RIGHT 


If they get a low bond or such. I hope Trammell Crow sues each & every member of that group for the millions they will lose because of the delay. 



primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Is the TRO necessary. So long as the Judge rules there is a credible claim, Crow would be taking quite a chance to break ground before they have a final verdict as an HOA victory would presumably cause the property to revert to the prior zoning.

WylieH
WylieH

[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.]

That's just a plain stupid remark.  Property owners who have been stripped of due process rights are required to sue the violator, which was the City of Dallas, NOT the developer.  That's the way the law is written.

WylieH
WylieH

@unclescrappy No, they are suing because the legal notice was false and deceptive, incorrectly stating that the developer was seeking MU-3 mixed use district uses.  Sam's Clubs are prohibited in MU-3 districts.  If, out of simple curiosity, the recipient somehow managed to get hold of the City staff report, they would have found it packed chock full of lies and deceptions, and not a single mention that the developer and city staff were secretly slipping two sentences into the ordinance itself that would allow for the prohibited use.

WylieH
WylieH

@primi_timpano This is also what I've been wondering.  If I were the institutional money behind this deal, there would be no way I would risk going forward before trial---- there is a very, very good chance that the community will prevail.  If they start building before trial, they run the very high risk of a judge determining that the zoning is void, at which point they've just built a very expensive pile of concrete blocks.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@primi_timpano  In that case TC would be grandfathered in.  So the Temporary Injunction is absolutely necessary for EVA.  If the temporary injunction is denied, expect to see concrete trucks pooring slab vey soon.  there is a reason they started clearing the lot a few weeks ago.

ryan762
ryan762

@primi_timpano I don't know. That building that's too tall because the city let the builder redefine what 'ground' is got to stay as it was. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Why is the city contesting this? Do they not require instructions from their client (the City Council) to incur what will be high expenditures of time and money?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@WylieH

A point of clarification, a Sam's Club is an allowed use in MU-3 zoning, it is the size which is an issue. The size that is planned is prohibited without additional process, greater than 100k sf store requires a SUP. The concept is to have a public review of the application due to the unique issues that large of a single user building brings.

In theory TCC rolled the PD zoning change and the SUP (figuratively) into one case. I do not believe this is specifically stated as legal or illegal in the Dallas Development Code, it was a very cunning move by TCC. I use the word "cunning" but deceptive and underhanded would also work...

WylieH
WylieH

@primi_timpano This is one of the things I hate about the Dallas City Attorney's office.  They are supposed to report to the City Council.  In actual practice, however, they take direction from City staff.  The City Attorney's default position is always that City staff performed their jobs perfectly, no matter how shady and/or egregious the behavior.

As a result, residents are pinned up against the wall, and have to expend enormous sums of money fighting a City Attorney's office with unlimited budget and manpower.  The number of attorneys sitting in the courtroom during Friday's hearing literally could not be contained by the normal area allocated to defense council, they apparently were spilling into the general seating area because there were so many of them.

WylieH
WylieH

@mavdog True.... in fact, many of the neighbors say they would be okay with a Sam's Club under 100,000 sf, designed in a semi-sensitive manner.

As city staff and the city attorney well know... retail over 100,000 sf is a huge hot button item.  Indeed, in 2004, the City Council went so far as to pass a resolution stating that retail over 100,000 sf can have a harmful impact on adjacent properties, and that is why it requires careful review on a case-by-case basis.

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