BREAKING: Legacy Demands Council Rescind Zoning Ordinance

Preston V. Phillips, vice president of Legacy Hillcrest Investments, sent a letter dated April 8 to the University Park City Council demanding that Mayor Holmes not sign the zoning ordinance that was unanimously passed at Tuesday’s council meeting. You can read the whole letter after the jump.

The council will hold a closed-session meeting at noon on Monday to get confidential legal advice regarding the letter. No action will be taken.

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16 thoughts on “BREAKING: Legacy Demands Council Rescind Zoning Ordinance

  • April 9, 2010 at 2:15 pm
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    And the plot thickens. Kudos for getting the actual letter.

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  • April 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm
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    Wow! YOUR tax dollars will be spent defending this lawsuit!!

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  • April 9, 2010 at 4:34 pm
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    So – is this because they are going to now sell the property, and they don’t want a definative zoning change tacked to it? If not – what’s the deal?

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  • April 9, 2010 at 6:30 pm
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    Legacy sure knows how to generate community support, huh? “We’re gonna build something you clearly don’t want, and if you resist, we’re gonna sue you and waste your tax dollars as punishment.” How long before the community simply decides to boycott any business located within any development built on the site by Legacy?

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  • April 9, 2010 at 9:28 pm
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    I live five blocks from Snider Plaza and I don’t really care what they build as long as they provide adequate parking and, I hope, make the parking available to all Snider Plaza visitors. I don’t blame them for yanking the city’s chain. After all, the city (egged on by a small but loud group of residents – remember all those stupid “No WalMart in Snider Plaza” signs?) have been jerking them around for years.

    Legacy has a few other weapons in its arsenal. First, Legacy agreed years ago to provide rent-free space in the new building to the UP Public Library. They could take that off the table. I don’t know Legacy’s current arrangement with the library (located on the first floor of the existing building), but I can’t imagine they would be especially motivated to renew the library’s lease when the time comes – and if they choose not to, there is nothing the city could do about it. And what if they decide to simply fence off the Daniel Ave. parking lot – even to people willing to pay – and make the parking situation even worse?

    Rama is right in that none of these things would make Legacy more popular in the community. But if the city in fact violated the law by passing the zoning ordinance after Legacy withdrew their request, then the litigation and resulting costs are the city council’s fault, not Legacy’s. My guess is the Legacy doesn’t really care about their public approval ratings. They just want to tear down that eyesore and build something that will make their property more valuable. Remember, they’ve been working on this project for years. They obviously have the cash and patience to wait it out a few more years until they finally wear down the council and get what they want.

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  • April 10, 2010 at 1:07 am
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    Neal, Legacy has been jerking the city and its citizens around for years, not the other way around. The group of homeowners you’re talking about is not small, and what they’re concerned about (me included) is safety. No one wants to stop development–the issue is one of reasonable size, and traffic safety. If you live five blocks from Snider Plaza and “don’t really care” what they build, you can’t possibly have children of school age. Or if you do, you’re not up to speed on the studies demonstrating how traffic above a certain threshold will negatively impact the residential neighborhoods to the west of the project.

    By the way, the fake library offer by Legacy was taken “off the table” long ago. I use quote marks because that issue was a complete red herring from day one. UP citizens finally realized the library was not Legacy’s pawn to hold hostage.

    You’re correct that Legacy has enough cash to lay siege to the people of UP for as many years as they want. But I’m not going anywhere, and neither are any of my like-monded colleagues.

    Legacy is behaving like a spoiled child, and a now a bully as well. Hopefully this latest threat will help others wake up and see them for what they are, before they irreversibly scar our community.

    Something great can and should be built in that spot–something that would be a win-win for both the developer and the community. The only thing any of us find objectionable is the concept of sacrificing safety in order to wring out the extra lease dollars from the footprint available. Just build something reasonable–that’s all we’re saying.

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  • April 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm
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    @Rama, In reading your first comment I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarites between Legacy and the actions of another group of people. See if this statement couldn’t also be made about this other group of people:

    The democrats sure knows how to generate community support, huh? “We’re gonna pass something you clearly don’t want, and if you resist, we’re gonna sue you and waste your tax dollars as punishment.”

    I also like your solution:

    “How long before the community simply decides to boycott..” you can fill in the rest.

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  • April 10, 2010 at 5:08 pm
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    Hey, Rama, where were you when the Bush Library was proposed? If we are concerned about the “safety” of our community, seems as though that one is a bigger risk and a huge addition to traffic. I don’t think reasonable is the bar, given that no one seems to want anything to change about the Chase building. The library IS a non-issue because the number of citizens visiting the library is not statistically high. The problem is, the citizens want to determine what is win-win, and the developer doesn’t have a shot at pleasing anyone. If they did, the Chase tower would be long gone by now. Instead, we’re going to continue to fight about it for ten more years, and the uselessness called Snider Plaza will continue in its current state.

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  • April 11, 2010 at 6:45 pm
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    If I were representing Legacy, and I had a good case, I’d advise my client to lay out the the legal arguments for why the council must revoke the ordinance. But Al’s letter just says the council didn’t follow required procedures; it’s awfully short on specifics. It reminds me of a kid who says, “Oooh, you’re in big trouble now!” Who knows if he has anything he can use to back that up?

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  • April 12, 2010 at 7:51 am
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    What the UP City Council did was illegal, and every citizen in UP should be concerned about this illegal action. Since when does the government have the right to break the law? They do not have the right to zone an individual’s property without due process and following the rule of law. This council either believes that they are above the law and due process, or they are reckless leaders. What they have done is put UP citizens (and its taxpayers in jeopardy.) I can’t believe that the UP City Attorney, Rob Dillard, actually let them pursue this course of action. Additionally, our Mayor Blackie Holmes is a trial attorney…he should know better.

    10+ years ago, the City of Dallas took the same action as UP, except it was on the former Cinemark site at Inwood & Lovers. They rezoned this property illegally and Cinemark filed a multi-million dollar law suit against the individual City Council members and the City of Dallas. The result…the city lost a multi-million judgement and its citizens were stuck with the bill! Make no mistake, unless the UP Council rescinds their action, the taxpayers of UP will be at risk for the irresponsible actions of our City Council. Whether you agree with the Chase Bank project are not, our Mayor and City Council members can not break the law and property owners (all of us) have certain rights. I will definitely be watching the Council’s action prior to my upcoming vote in the City Council elections.

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  • April 12, 2010 at 10:17 am
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    @Reasonable? are you really trying to make the case that the zoning cases for the Bush Library and Chase Bank are similar? If so, how so? And Snider Plaza useless? That one needs to be explained too.

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  • April 12, 2010 at 10:32 am
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    I think the Cinemark site was at Inwood and Forest, where the Lowe’s is now located. But you’re right, the city council may have overreached this time.

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  • April 12, 2010 at 10:36 am
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    @Concerned Taxpayer’s comment is just as conclusory as Legacy’s letter was. Both just jump to the conclusion that the council didn’t follow due process. But neither of them lays out a argument that suggest how due process was lacking. I’m not talking about a legal brief, but some suggestion of a rough argument would be nice. And I wouldn’t be shocked if there actually is a good argument to be made. But neither Legacy’s letter nor Concerned Citizen even make a stab at it.

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  • April 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm
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    Fortunately, truth and calmer heads prevailed today and the citizens of UP are now the winners. The UP City Council’s decision to rescind its hastily made, emotional-filled decision to zone the Chase Bank/Legacy property (after the owner withdrew its zoning application) was definitely the right thing for them to do. This decision has, in my opinion, saved UP taxpayers a boatload of money in legal fees, penalties and damages. And as a citizen of UP for over 50 years who is keenly aware of the serious consequences of the council’s FIRST decision, I am very grateful that the council rescinded its vote.

    As to Neal’s comment, he is correct (OK, it was early when I entered my blog and I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee!) For the record, the Cinemark site was located on the east side of Inwood Road just north of “Forest Lane,” not Lovers. As I remember it, the Dallas city councilwoman who pushed the illegal vote through (and against the advice of the City Attorney) was Donna Blummer. After an extended legal battle, Cinemark won the verdict and was awarded (as I remember) $5 million from the City of Dallas, Donna Blummer was slapped with a $1 million judgment (which the taxpayers of Dallas ended up paying), and the City of Dallas had to pay both parties’ legal fees. I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but that sounds like around $7-8 million dollars! Nothing to sneeze at.

    As to Topham Beauclerk’s comment, I really don’t have time to lay out a legal brief for you…nor is this the place. Topham, if you are truly a concerned citizen, get educated. Go pull a copy of the zoning laws, Google recent zoning cases, etc. You’ll quickly see that our UP City Council was in the wrong. Otherwise, why would they have rescinded their decision so quickly if they were so “cock sure” of their legal position? Do you really think that they would sacrifice the long-term well-being of our community if they had any legal standing at all? They may be many things, but their initial decision to illegally zone the property was nothing short of prideful and arrogant.

    Which brings me back to my first concern. Our Council trampled on the rights of all its citizens last week. Though the immediate crisis of a costly lawsuit against the city (and ultimately us as taxpayers) has been avoided, it begs the question of exactly “what were our city leaders thinking?” In the words of Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as Stupid does.”

    I, for one, am re-thinking my opinion of our city leaders and the way they run our city government. For instance, have any of you ever asked yourself the following questions: “Why do we always have elections that are basically ‘closed’?” (Ever see a UP newcomer run? Ask them if they were ever “requested” to withdraw.) “Why is it that the same people run for the same city offices all the time?” (How many mayors has UP had, anyway?) “Why do our UP leaders constantly defer to SMU instead of it citizens?” (Law Library, Bush Library, land swaps?) “Who really controls the City of University Park…its citizens, or SMU?” (So sad to see the original La Madeline go.)

    UP’s election system makes it difficult to vote a city leader out of office. And it makes it difficult for new and energetic citizens to run against the “chosen few.” If the City Council had not been able to rescind its vote before a lawsuit was filed by Legacy against them, what recourse would any of us really have had as voters and citizens to oust the people who put us in this mess? When you think about it, Legacy was actually being easy of the city by giving the council a “heads-up” that they had “screwed-up!” My advice to my fellow UP citizens: Get to know your city. Get to know your leaders. Don’t blindly follow your leaders because they tell you that “THEY know best.” Finally, don’t automatically accept the status quo and the good ole boy system because you never know if they really represent “us.”

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  • April 12, 2010 at 11:51 pm
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    @Concerned Citizen (hi Al!) I specifically didn’t ask for a legal brief, just something more substantive than conclusory statements that the council violated due process. I can think of a couple of reasons the council backed down: (1) they concluded that they really didn’t follow the rules, or (2) they know you (oops, I mean Al Huddleston) has deep enough pockets to make it costly for the city to fight, even if they thought they’d prevail in the long run. I don’t know which is correct, or if there’s another reason. But I do know that when Al said, “Boo!” the city blinked. So here’s my message to fellow UP citizens: beware unelected rich guys who have the wherewithal to threaten elected officials into backing down just by rattling a saber.

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  • April 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm
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    TB, “Call me Al” are words from a Paul Simon song, and Paul didn’t name the song after me. Believe it or not, there are other people in UP besides Albert Huddleston who are concerned about protecting their property rights. I did enjoy your accusation that I was actually Al blogging! And my reference to “Call Me Al” brought to mind poignant words from another famous song.

    Elvis’ version of “Jail House Rock” could definitely be applied to our City Council, especially if Legacy had followed thru with a lawsuit. And guess what, you and I as taxpayers could have paid dearly by being forced to hear the City Council’s song played against our will.

    Regardless of the reason the Council reversed its decision, I’m glad. However, as educated, sophisticated, strategic leaders, the Mayor and Council should have never have put the city, the taxpayers or themselves in that foolish position. If you think their initial decision was good for UP, then you may be an Elvis fan too! CT

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