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Developer wins suit against Crestview neighbors

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Mark Dawson Homes has won its lawsuit against the residents of the Crestview neighborhood who tried to enforce an expired restrictive covenant against the developer that might have prevented it from building two homes on one lot at 7801 Mullen Drive.

Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak signed the final judgment in favor of Mark Dawson Homes on Feb. 17. The judgment states that a 1946 restrictive covenant that would have prevented a second home from being built on the lot expired in 1986. An attempt to modify or amend that restrictive covenant in 1954 is void, according to the ruling.

One of the neighbors on the losing end of the suit, Aaron Wallace, told the Austin Monitor on Tuesday, “I was surprised with how many people agreed with (Dawson Homes’) position on the matter – just the whole density debate in the city. How much do we care about preserving the existing character of the neighborhood, and how much do we just want to cram as many people as possible into these urban spaces?”

Wallace added, “So, I think that’s a fight that’s happening in a number of places across the city. … This seems like a signal to me that in general it’s not going to go so well for those neighborhoods and homeowners.”

In addition to Wallace, three other defendant neighbors named in the judgment – Luz Suarez, Catherine June Lee and Mina Loomis – will be liable for attorneys’ fees if they appeal the judgment. If the case goes to the 3rd Court of Appeals and the developer “prevails in any part of the appeal, MDH (Mark Dawson Homes) is awarded $15,960,” the judgment says.

In addition, if any of the defendants appeal to the Texas Supreme Court after losing at the Court of Appeals, they will also be liable for between $7,600 and about $14,000 in additional attorneys’ fees if MDH prevails on any issue.

The developer had initially threatened neighbors with $100,000 in attorneys’ fees – an unlikely sum.

Wallace said Tuesday that he and his wife have not decided whether to appeal. They are waiting to hear options from their attorney, he said. Wallace said it is his understanding that they will not owe any attorneys’ fees if they simply drop the case. The attorney for Mark Dawson Homes, Alex Valdes, did not respond to a phone call requesting comment.

This is certainly not what the neighbors were expecting last spring when they threatened to sue Mark Dawson Homes. Following that threat, the developer decided to take action, filing suit against numerous residents of the neighborhood and then offering to nonsuit those who signed an agreement not to oppose the project.

Photo by alamosbasement made available through a Creative Commons license.

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