The Texas Supreme Court ruled against the City of San Antonio in a long-standing breach of contract lawsuit over the Hays Street Bridge.
The opinion delivered by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht said the city does not hold governmental immunity under the Local Government Contract Claims Act. The decision reversed a ruling by the 4th Court of Appeals and sent it back to the appeals court for other portions of the case to be decided.
Members of the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group considered the decision a victory.
The City said the decision didn’t affect the sale of the land.
Throughout the seven-year dispute, the restoration group said the land was designated to be a park. The City said the original 2002 agreement said it was not, and it shared the original agreement with Texas Public Radio.
Amy Kastely, attorney for the restoration group, spoke to the media on Friday.
“Now is a good time for the City, for the mayor, for the city council, for the new city manager to do the right thing, and that is to commit this land to public use to support public access and understanding of this amazing and historic bridge,” she said in a telephone news conference.
In a statement, the City called the Supreme Court’s ruling ‘narrow and technical’ and said it would not affect the City’s intention to sell the land or any future development.
“The Court’s decision confirmed that Texas cities still have immunity protection from claims for monetary damages related to governmental contracts, but claims seeking specific performance of contractual terms can be considered against a city.”
The City added that using some of the proceeds of the sale to pay for restoration costs of the bridge met a 2014 district court judgment.
The City sold the land at 803 N. Cherry Street below the Hays Street Bridge to Eugene Simor, the owner of Alamo Beer, in 2012, which sparked the ongoing lawsuit. Simor intended to build a brewery on the property.
However, Simor ultimately decided to build the brewery on an adjacent piece of land.
Last year, former San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley approved the development of a new apartment complex at 803 N. Cherry.
The decision came after the City’s Historic Design and Review Commission twice declined the developer Mitch Meyer and Loopy Limited approval to build the apartments.
The restoration group has not filed an injunction requesting the development to stop – nor does it intend to file one, but Kastely said the appeals court could potentially decide against any development.
“… There is the very real possibility that they will be ordered to remove anything that they put on that land eventually, “Kastely said. “So if they want to build a building that they later tear down, that’s up to them.”
Kastely added it would take several months before the 4th Court of Appeals would take any action, including asking for new briefs. Any decisions, Kastely said, could come after this year.