Judge to rule on open meeting suit of Champion tract

Four Points News

The Lake Austin Collective Inc. filed a Texas Open Meetings Act suit against the city of Austin on June 5 and the district judge heard arguments from both sides last week.

Attorney Bill Aleshire is representing the Lake Austin Collective, a group of citizens who live near the tract owned by the Champion sisters on City Park Road near RM 2222. The Champions proposed to develop the tract.

Members of the board of the Lake Austin Collective include Carol Lee, Linda Bailey and Susan Kimbrough. Marisa Lipscher, another plaintiff in the proposed suit, owns property next to the proposed Champion development and is the collective’s registered agent.

The Lake Austin Collective’s Aleshire argued that the Open Meetings Act was violated because the action Council took was to give Champion waivers of the Lake Austin Watershed Ordinance and the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance without mentioning that on the meeting agenda that such waivers would be considered. The waivers were “not even hinted to,” Aleshire said.

The Council’s meeting notice for agenda item 6 on November 10, 2016 stated:

6. Approve second and third reading of an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 960613-J and authorizing execution of the first amendment to a settlement agreement relating to the development of property located at 6409 City Park Road (Champion Tract). Related to Item #43.

Aleshire said that item No. 43 was to approve multi-residential zoning, but it was posted correctly.

The Lake Austin Collective provided the city notice and opportunity in a letter on April 3 to avoid the Open Meetings Act lawsuit.

“We offered to not file the suit, if the Council would simply repost the Champion item on the agenda and this time include wording like ‘and consider waiver of environmental regulations’ or something like ‘and consider waiver of the Lake Austin Watershed Ordinance and Hill Country Roadway Ordinance’,” Aleshire said.

The city declined the offer, so the Lake Austin Collective filed the lawsuit on June 5. The City and Aleshire filed motions for summary judgment in September and set the Oct. 5 hearing for those motions.

Also in September, — after Lake Austin Collective got notice from the city that they were proceeding to process the site plan — the collective obtained an injunction from the court to stop the approval of any site plan on that property until its Open Meetings Act claim was decided by the court.

“I filed for a temporary injunction, and, on (Sept. 22), Judge Triana granted that injunction to bar the staff, commissions, or council from approving a site plan until final judgment is entered in our TOMA case,” Aleshire said.

The Lake Austin Collective pointed out that the site plan requires Land Use Commission approval, the staff “backed off” and sent a new notice in the third week of September that the site plan would be submitted to the Land Use Commission, he added.

Then last week on Oct. 5, Judge Scott Jenkins of the 53rd District Court heard the arguments from both sides and will carefully review the motions before issuing a ruling, Aleshire said.

“If the Judge rules in our favor, he will declare the Council’s action void,” Aleshire said. “Either side can appeal, but we expect the injunction to stay in place preventing implementing the waivers by approval of a site plan.”