A judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit three Central residents filed against that city’s mayor and council that had sought to block construction of a traditional neighborhood development called The Settlement at Shoe Creek.
State District Judge Wilson Fields said he had no choice other than to base his decision on what had been argued in at a preliminary hearing in August because the plaintiffs brought no new evidence or witnesses to court Friday. At issue was whether the mayor and council members violated their own zoning ordinances to allow the development in Central.
Fields had ruled against plaintiffs David Freneaux, Michael Mannino and Michael Stephens at the August hearing in their request for a preliminary injunction to prevent it from going forward. He said lawmakers were within their rights to approve the development, which is expected to break ground in early 2016.
Central Mayor Jr. Shelton and the people representing Shoe Creek celebrated the duplicated result on Friday, while the attorney for the residents vowed to appeal.
The result came without a full trial on Friday.
Seth Dornier, attorney for the residents, said he could not subpoena his witnesses because he was “jammed up with a rush of filing and hearing dates” in the case. He said the attorneys had to prepare for a summary judgment hearing on Monday, which put them in a rush to subpoena witnesses.
He said he had asked for a private server to deliver the subpoenas to speed the process but learned on Thursday that the court denied the request. Dornier then asked to postpone the case, but Fields refused.
“The plaintiff caused those delays on himself,” Fields said.
Dornier said his only option going forward is to appeal the ruling because he could not go to trial without witnesses.
“I am sadly disappointed that my clients did not get a fair trial, that they couldn’t have their day in court, that people didn’t get a chance to speak and be heard because of discretionary rulings of the court,” he said.
Chris Whittington, an attorney for Shoe Creek who joined with the city’s defense, asked for the case to be dismissed. He said if Dornier could not win the preliminary hearing, it wasn’t possible for him to win at a full hearing without bringing new information to light.
“Why they waited until the last week to do all of this is beyond what we can understand,” Whittington said, referring the plaintiffs’ lack of witnesses.
Fields dismissed the case with prejudice so it cannot be retried. The plaintiffs will have to absorb court costs.
The case did not halt progress on Shoe Creek, as developer Prescott Bailey said he is wrapping up construction plans and talking to possible tenants. The mayor said Shoe Creek should bring new energy for economic development in Central.
“The development’s been held hostage over this, and it’s time to release the shackles,” Shelton said after the ruling.