Naked City

Again, SOS Sues On Stratus

The Save Our Springs Alliance has filed a second lawsuit to invalidate the controversial development agreement between the city of Austin and Stratus Properties. The latest petition, filed Monday in Travis County district court, claims the city violated state laws by engaging in contract zoning -- that is, by incorporating 14 separate zoning ordinances into the terms of the Stratus agreement, which the City Council then approved in one fell swoop last summer. The city, SOS argues, should have voted on each zoning ordinance individually and should have conducted public hearings on each of the proposals. Both the city and Stratus are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Stratus Chief Executive Beau Armstrong took issue with the contract-zoning claim. "I'm really disappointed," he said. "I thought it was a pretty square deal, and that it was compliant" with the SOS water-quality ordinance. "I think we're hip to the notion that people don't want the aquifer paved." He said six City Council votes and the support of some community and environmental leaders didn't happen overnight, but rather through lengthy negotiations leading to a number of development concessions. Despite that, he said, "It turns out that SOS is against everything."

Not true, said SOS lawyer Brad Rockwell, who filed the lawsuit with co-counsel Melanie Oberlin. "We're for a regional plan that ... protects water quality and other resources that are irreplaceable, and we're for turning a lot of the aquifer land into parkland. And," he said, "we're for Beau Armstrong going somewhere else to make his millions."

City Council approved the Stratus agreement last summer over the objections of hundreds of residents and environmentalists opposed to any more large-scale developments over the Edwards Aquifer. Last June, SOS sued the city and Stratus on grounds that the proposed development posed an "imminent threat" to Barton Springs, which flows from the aquifer. A summary-judgment hearing on that lawsuit takes place later this month.

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