Save Town Lake Trumps City in Court

Court of Appeals rejects city's effort to thwart lawsuit

Another legal victory goes to Save Town Lake, a nonprofit group championing protection of open space along Lady Bird Lake. In a lawsuit against the city of Austin, the group seeks to reinstate height limitations on new shoreline developments that were in the city's original 1986 Waterfront Overlay ordinance (see "Developing Stories," Sept. 21, 2007). Like the state district court, the 3rd Court of Appeals has ruled against the city, determining that Save Town Lake indeed does have standing to bring the lawsuit.

The nonprofit's claim is that the city violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when it took the height limits out of the Land Development Code in a 1999 "plain English rewrite." Save Town Lake attorney Scott Hendler commented via e-mail: "The City insisted that the Austin Courts did not have such jurisdiction and brought this appeal to derail and delay the trial court from reviewing the issue." Hendler has previously criticized the city's use of taxpayer dollars for this legal tactic: "The city's policy should be to let a case like this – about open government – be heard on its merits, not try to get it thrown out on a technicality."

Will Save Town Lake now press on with its lawsuit? Hendler said the group is taking a wait-and-see approach, having "forged an acceptable resolution to the CWS project [the 200-foot condo towers proposed for 200/333 E. River­side] that should serve as a precedent and guideline to future development in the Waterfront Overlay Districts." He said the group will monitor "whether the Waterfront Overlay Task Force is successful in restoring the original protections provided by the WO Ordinance."

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