Judge rules against Edison Square neighbors

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2015


BEAUMONT— A group of Port Arthur residents who for more than two years have opposed the building of affordable housing for the elderly in their neighborhood will have to look to another court if the fight is to continue.

On Tuesday, Judge Donald Floyd, presiding judge with the 172nd Judicial District Court of Jefferson County, rendered his opinion in the case that originally centered on a zoning dispute between the 12th Street area residents where Edison Square is to be built and the city of Port Arthur.

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After hearing arguments in the case on Aug. 28, Floyd determined his court had no jurisdiction over the claims brought by Port Arthur residents Reginald Trainer, Efrain Avendano, Paul Hulin and Herman Leginston.

Floyd dismissed the case on grounds that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate they had exhausted their administrative remedies under state law and the city’s zoning ordinance, and that circumstances of the case changed making it moot.

John Hightower, with the legal firm Olsen and Olsen, represented the city of Port Arthur, the defendant in the Aug. 28 hearing.

Floyd’s decision came after hearing the case for the second time in two years. He was asked to determine whether the city had overreached its authority in issuing a zoning change that would allow developer The Itex Company to build 128 townhouse style apartments at a 15-acre site at 3501 12th St., where the old Edison school once stood.

Itex was initially granted the zoning change from two family residential to multiple family residential.

Plaintiffs in the case have stated their concerns that the housing complex would negatively impact the neighborhood, and that while designed for elderly people, those of all ages would end up living there.

Hightower had argued that the court had no jurisdiction in the case because the developer had changed course and decided to build duplexes rather than townhouses after the residents’ appeal to the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustments was upheld.

Hightower argued that because the duplexes fell within the two family zoning restriction, the matter was moot.

Floyd agreed, allowing the builder to proceed with the project.

Adams said obviously he was disappointed with the decision, and would file an appeal in the case if the plaintiffs instructed him to.

If appealed, the case will go to the Ninth Court of Appeals.

“Basically, he gave Hightower everything he wanted,” Adams said

Trainer said the plaintiffs would file an appeal Wednesday.

“We are appealing the verdict because the citizens of Port Arthur have been fighting for two and a half years first for their voices to be heard, and secondly for justice,” Trainer said

Avendano said he does not believe justice was done, and that Floyd’s decision was based on political motives.

“Apparently, fraternities and PACS have a priority over the law and the justice system. The decision displayed nothing but a lack of trust and a lack of integrity,” Avendano said. “The citizens of Port Arthur and the residents of Edison Square that supported Judge Floyd in his re-election are very disappointed for if it were not for the votes of the residents around Edison Square Judge Floyd would not be in office.”

E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.co

Twitter: skooncePANews