There was a town hall meeting on Wednesday night on the status of the Ashby Highrise at Poe Elementary School just as there had been back in 2007 when the project first came up. Given that the developers have finally gotten approval from the city, the impression I get from reading this Examiner story about that town hall is that it’s basically all over but for the shouting. It’s just that there’s still going to be a lot of shouting.
“None of us is happy that the Buckheads have been approved,” Chris Amandes, an attorney and task force leader, told a packed house. “But, I think, we now see there is quite a bit that can be done.”
Amandes said the developers have three choices now: “pick up the permit” and start building, sue the city in an effort to build the original design or hope for a better deal from the new mayor.
He said grounds for legal action by the developers had actually been weakened by the issuance of the final permit, because it would be like going to court and saying, “They gave us what we asked for, but it wasn’t fair.”
Fellow task-force leader Jim Reeder helped provide insight on the third option by asking the three mayoral candidates who attended if they would “assure what was done (permitting only the scaled-back high-rise) would not be undone.”
Reeder said the task force is currently in a position of having to be “reactive” in its approach, because its members do not know what the Buckhead Developers will do next.
He said “a number of litigation theories” have been discussed, and he encouraged his neighbors to keep contacting elected officials and continue displaying their yellow yard signs and bumper stickers.
“This is not going to end tomorrow,” he said.
The possibility of the neighbors suing the developers over this project has been raised before, and I still don’t think that will go anywhere. Getting the next Mayor to commit to holding them to the scaled-down (though still 23-story) design that the permit they finally won allows is likely the best they’ll do. And kudos to Gene Locke for reminding the Ashby agitators that they’re not the only folks in Houston who’ve run into this situation before. The irony is that I feel like he’s the least likely of the three to extrapolate from this situation when it does arise again elsewhere, but that’s a side issue at this point. In any event, while it will surely be awhile before this issue goes away – hell, it may be awhile before the tower gets built, if it ever does; there’s plenty of empty lots sitting around these days where grandiose construction projects (Sonoma, anyone?) were supposed to have been – I see it as being on a low simmer rather than a rolling boil. For now, anyway.