The Houston Chronicle editorializes about the recent Ashby trial verdict.
Houston has zoning, if you have the cash. That’s the lesson from the fight over the Ashby high-rise.
Last week, after years of petitions, protests and legal wrangling to stop developers from building the 21-story residential tower, a Harris County jury awarded to 20 nearby residents nearly $1.7 million in damages anticipated from the building’s construction. State District Judge Randy Wilson will soon hold a hearing to determine if the whole project should be shut down.
This is no way to regulate development in Houston. These sorts of decisions belong in a planning commission, not a courtroom. Proper development requires predictability, and this court case sets a dangerous precedent for construction at the whim of those who can afford high-priced attorneys. Arbitrary enforcement of tenuous nuisance claims is no way to plan a city.
Houston needs responsible development to help shape our city into a place where people not only come to work, but want to live. Incentives for dense development along transit corridors can help guide construction without the burdens of full-fledged zoning. But this trial does little to help us get there.
I agree with this editorial entirely. This case represents backdoor zoning for the wealthy.
I made similar comments to the Chronicle earlier this week.
“This represents back-door zoning for wealthy people to stop developments in neighborhoods,” Blackman said. “This gives a powerful veto to the residents.”