Updated: Judge denies request to freeze permits for Hays Street Bridge apartments

by Ben OlivoJuly 10, 2018

Updated 10:56 a.m. Tuesday

In a ruling Monday, District Judge Laura Salinas denied a request by the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group that would have temporarily halted the development of a five-story apartment project just north of the bridge at Cherry and Lamar streets on the near East Side. [ Read the Judge Salinas' decision. ]

Currently, the Texas Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a related case this fall. The group went to Bexar County District Court last month because it feared that developer Mitch Meyer would attempt to start construction on the apartments before the Texas Supreme Court justices could hear arguments. If that were to happen, the proceedings would be rendered moot, the group says.

The city contends that the Texas Supreme Court's ruling will not have no impact on the current development, while the restoration group says it could.

More immediate, however, is the prospect of Meyer beginning construction. Last week, in a statement to the media, Meyer said construction may not start for another six months, a delay caused by revisions he's says he's made at the request of City Manager Sheryl Sculley.

"We're not going to count on that at all," said Amy Kastely, the restoration group's pro bono attorney, of Meyer's timetable.

Kastely said the group will file a similar motion — to halt any progress on the development, until the Texas Supreme Court hears the case — with the Texas Supreme Court as soon as possible. She also expressed disappointment that Judge Salinas did not provide an explanation for her decision.

"We're just very disappointed — to wait three weeks and not even have any rationale at all," she said. "A fundamental part of justice is giving reasons for judicial decisions."

The group says a five-story building will block views of the bridge, while other critics say such a development will worsen gentrification in the near-East Side neighborhood of Dignowity Hill. Simor has long said that his developments will restore prominence to the once-thriving neighborhood.

Today's decision stems from a 2012 lawsuit, in which the group sued the city when the city sold the land at 803 N. Cherry St. to Eugene Simor, owner of Alamo Beer Co. on the opposite side of the bridge, who's also a partner in this project. The group claims that the city failed to honor an agreement dating back more than 10 years that would have reserved the land for a park. In 2014, a jury agree with the group, but its ambiguous verdict caused confusion on how exactly the land was to be used. Later that year, the city transferred the 1.7-acre property to Simor specifically for the current mixed-use project that's in the works. The restoration group filed a motion of contempt in Bexar County District Court, claiming that the sale violated the jury verdict.

The city appealed and won when the Fourth Court of Appeals said that the city could not be sued because it has governmental immunity.

This is the matter that the Texas Supreme Court will hear on Sept. 13.

"The issue before the (Texas) Supreme Court deals with a very narrow immunity issue," City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement Monday. "We are glad Judge Salinas saw that there was no linkage between the Supreme Court matter and moving forward on the project."

Kastely says the two matters are linked. If the Texas Supreme Court determines that the city does not have governmental immunity in this case, then the group's 2014 motion for contempt, she has argues, is back in play — meaning the District Court must rule on whether the 2014 sale, from the city to Simor, violated the jury verdict.

Meyer could not be reached for comment.

» Previously published: Sculley gives final approval for Hays Street Bridge apartments

Featured image by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron


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