The Saga in Southampton Continues
After two and a half years of denials, plan alterations, yellow yard signs and city council hearings, Buckhead Investment Partners, the developers behind the beleaguered Ashby high-rise, have filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston alleging that authorities overstepped their bounds in issuing denials of the planned mixed-use development. City Attorney Arturo Michel says that the city will contest the lawsuit.
Starting in July 2007, city officials denied permits for the high-rise plans 11 times, citing a little-used driveway ordinance. In September 2009, the city finally approved the plans when the developers modified plans from a 23-story tower with 226 apartments and over 16,000 square feet of commercial space to a reduced scale of 210 apartments and no retail space. But the Buckhead Partners later said they never planned to build the modified structure.
The lawsuit alleges, in part, "The City, in refusing to grant a foundation and site work permit to Plaintiff for which it was entitled for a proposed multi-story mixed use building in Houston, Texas, has taken and damaged Plaintiff's valuable and vested property rights for a public use without payment of compensation, has denied Plaintiff the same protections under the laws applied to similarly situated parties, has acted arbitrarily and capriciously, abused its discretion, has denied reasonable access to Plaintiffs property, and has required of Plaintiff an illegal exaction not roughly proportional to any burden Plaintiff's proposed development might impose."
But Stop Ashby High-Rise Task Force co-chairman Chris Amandes told the Houston Chronicle that, considering the city approved one version of the project, the monetary damages seem implausible. “It is hard to see how that difference is worth more than $40 million. It appears that after realizing that their project cannot be financed in the marketplace, the Ashby developers are hoping that their profit might be found at the courthouse.”