The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Suit to Undo SR Ridge Deal

By Amy Smith, August 6, 2004, News

Buoyed by a recent court decision that placed a Lowe's big-box store in legal limbo, a coalition of neighborhood and environmental groups filed a lawsuit Monday against the landowner of another tract that is primed for big-box development over the Edwards Aquifer.

The Austin Community Coalition for Responsible Development (ACCORD) names the city of Austin and SR Ridge Limited Partnership, an Arizona entity controlled by landowner James Monaghan, as defendants in the suit, which stems from a 1996 settlement agreement between the city and the landowner, allowing the property at South MoPac and Slaughter Lane to be developed at 65% impervious cover. Because of its environmentally sensitive location, the city would ordinarily cap development at 15%. A year ago, Wal-Mart proposed building a 200,000 square foot Supercenter at the site, but withdrew its plans in the face of stiff opposition from the community, the mayor, and some city council members. (That in turn prompted SR Ridge to file its own lawsuit against the city, claiming City Hall opposition was a breach of Austin's contractual obligations; both sides are in settlement talks.)

The ACCORD lawsuit seeks to overturn the 1996 agreement based on arguments that it violates the Texas Open Meetings Act and the city's Save Our Springs Ordinance. SOS requires a six-vote council supermajority when amending the ordinance. This same argument has been used in a lawsuit brought against the city and Lowe's Home Centers regarding the retailer's controversial store planned for Brodie Lane, and two judges have thus far sided with the plaintiffs in rulings that forced construction to a halt. That case will go to trial in September.

ACCORD also argues that the council did not give proper notice before approving the agreement, and took action on the deal despite an ice storm that had kept most people off the roadways that day.

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