• Neighborhood residents were awarded $1.2 million for damages
  • Developers are searching for another contractor at this time due to increasing costs
  • Other Houston neighborhood residents are taking cues how to mobilize against developers

The Ashby tower high-rise at 1717 Bissonnet in Houston got the green light from the city to move forward with development in 2009, but ground has yet to be broken.

Since 2007, residents have clashed with developers over the construction of the proposed Ashby tower. The matter turned legal when residents filed a suit against the developer, Buckhead Investment Partners, claiming nuisance. The case went to trial and was settled in 2014.

ashby tower

Google Maps: Vacant site of Ashby tower

The case is currently in the court of appeals.

Matthew Festa, professor of law at South Texas College of Law, outlined how a nuisance order could have two possible outcomes: The judge could have determined the proposed development a nuisance and grant injunction, or could award damages to the residents of the neighborhood.

The 20 residents who filed suit against the Ashby tower developer, Buckhead Investment Partners of Houston, were awarded 1.2 million dollars for damages in 2014.

State District Judge Randy Wilson wrote that granting a permanent injunction “…will have a chilling effect on other developments in Houston.”

Zoning restrictions in Houston

Houston is notorious for its zoning restrictions — or lack thereof, depending on who you ask.

“Houston says we don’t have zoning because Houston doesn’t regulate according to land-use,” said Festa. He outlined how Houston does have prescribed rules about density, height, setbacks, buffering ordinance, and other regulations that would otherwise be contained within zoning code.

“We don’t have a map that says ‘you’ve got commercial here, you’ve got multi-family residential there.’ We don’t have that,” he said.

With Ashby tower, he referenced how the property at 1717 Bissonnet used to be home to a low-rise residential building. The approved proposal is for a 21-story mixed-use development, which is where the regulations about height restrictions would come into play.

“Historically, Houston has been a development-friendly city, but the neighborhoods that are there are protective of their existing character,” Festa said.

He referenced two other “copycat lawsuits” in the Houston area that are underway where neighborhoods have mobilized against developers.

Since Ashby tower has already been approved and no injunction was granted, it’s only a matter of time before ground-breaking.

The property at 1717 Bissonnet Street remains undeveloped at this time.

The Houston Chronicle reported Fred Cook, an attorney representing the developers, said due to the increasing construction costs, the developers are searching for a new contractor. Cook could not be reached for comment.

Email Britt Chester

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