Another Round This Week In Champion Sisters Fight

City wants to avoid court fight over development, saying a loss could make it even worse

If you've been out to the intersection of 2222 and Loop 360 lately, you probably noticed a big, nasty knot of traffic. If you watch City Council on Thursday, you'll notice a big, nasty knot of legal arguments over how much development can go on the land surrounding the intersection before the intersection becomes totally impassable. This is the so-called Champion Sisters fight, named after the three women who own the land; it's a decade-long battle that this week may finally reach final resolution – and it's not likely to please the neighbors.

"They [city legal staff] said that if it went on to court, they could lose and the results could be worse," said nearby resident Carol Lee. "I don't think this is the case. I think this issue is so complex it probably needs to be heard by a court."

"Complex" is putting it lightly – the case is a snarl of competing claims, cases, agreements and disagreements going back more than a decade. The sisters first sued the city in 1993, after a water-quality ordinance restricted impervious cover on their tracts. In 1996, the sisters reached a settlement with the city, allowing them to develop under 1970s regulations with a few concessions. When they went to zone their property in 2000, however, council responded to neighbors' traffic concerns and imposed a trip limitation of 6,500 trips per day. The sisters sued, arguing that the trip limitation made the kind of intense development allowed under the 1996 agreement a de facto impossibility. In August, council voted to accept a new agreement – this one with an 11,000-trip limit – in exchange for the aptly named Champions dropping the suit; only Raul Alvarez and Brewster McCracken voted no. The city's legal department recommended the move, saying that if the city lost the suit, the entire 1996 agreement could go out the window, leaving the area with no development regulations at all. That didn't satisfy Alvarez. "This thing has been decided or considered by the council on many occasions, and we've been given legal advice on various occasions, and time and time again this council has voted to support the trip limitations, so I'm just kind of surprised that we have a staff suggestion now on something like this," Alvarez said.

But lawyer Michael Whellan, who represents the sisters, believes the city's legal staff did the right thing. "The core claim is based on the city keeping its end of the 1996 bargain," Whellan said. "It's all about the city complying with the terms of the 1996 agreement with the Champions."

Council is scheduled to formally approve the zoning required by the August agreement at its Nov. 17 meeting; residents living near the Champions tract plan to show up in green and voice their opposition.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

city govermentChampion Sisters, Champion Sisters, 2222, Loop 360, Carol Lee, Raul Alvarez

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