After years of litigation, and a month long trial in December, a Houston jury has ruled that the Ashby high-rise project constitutes a nuisance for some of the neighboring residents. In its decision, the jury awarded almost $1.7 million to 20 of the 30 households that filed suit. The plaintiffs who were awarded damages will only receive them if the high-rise is actually built.
The case centered on property rights for both the developer and the neighbors as the neighbors stressed the challenges that the proposed 21 story building would bring to the already dense neighborhood. Developers started plans to build the 21 story mixed residential and commercial building in 2006 but were faced with backlash from the neighbors. Without zoning restrictions and having obtained all of the necessary permits to move forward, the developers had little constraint on their plans. The neighbors sued on the theory that the high-rise would create a nuisance. Texas law recognizes a nuisance as a condition that substantially interfered with the use and enjoyment of the land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities.
Although the jury has reached its verdict, the battle surrounding the Ashby high rise is far from over. Both sides are still awaiting the judge’s decision on whether he will issue an injunction, essentially halting construction of the project indefinitely. The developer of the high-rise also plans to appeal the damages verdict.