Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add comments from the attorney for the group suing the city.
The Plano City Council will no longer vote next week on a proposal to repeal the Plano Tomorrow plan and replace it with an amended version as a result of a lawsuit, the city said July 18 in a statement.
The council vote will be canceled after a group suing the city over the plan “changed their minds” after reaching a deal with city staff last week, city spokesperson Steve Stoler said in a statement. The Plano Tomorrow document is a comprehensive plan that guides the city’s decisions on zoning and other matters.
An attorney for the group disputed the city’s account, saying his clients never reached a deal with the city, but simply came out of the discussions under the impression the plan would be repealed and the lawsuit rendered moot.
“Where the breakdown happened was they were trying to get my clients to agree to a replacement plan,” attorney Jack Ternan said. “My clients aren’t elected. The City Council is elected. The City Council should be the ones putting together the replacement plan.”
The previous week, the city had characterized the results of the lawsuit mediation as an agreement between the two sides that they expected would resolve the lawsuit. Ternan said he was “encouraged” by the discussions, adding that he was hopeful the city would take citizen input into account.
Now, the parties disagree over what the expectations were coming out of last week’s meeting.
“When we walked away from the mediation, we believed we had a solid agreement acceptable to the plaintiffs to swap the land use provisions in the current plan for the counterparts in the 1986 plan that was repealed in 2015,” Stoler said in the statement.
Ternan said his understanding all along was that the city would vote to repeal the plan, and then the lawsuit would no longer be valid. But he didn’t see the conversation as an agreement, he said.
“They want to call it an agreement because they want to lock in the City Council to a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ vote on a particular thing,” Ternan said. “Our lawsuit puts it back in the hands of the elected officials to make a decision on how to go forward. That’s what the law says should happen, that’s what we want to have happen, and there seems to be somebody on the other side that’s afraid of that democratic process.”
During the July 10 mediation session, the group suing the city pledged to move an upcoming court date if the city put an item to repeal and replace the plan on the council agenda, according to both parties. It was understood at the time that if the city were to repeal the existing plan, the new lawsuit would become moot.
Stoler said the city staff would still prefer to go forward with the mediated agreement.
“Unfortunately, since last week, the plaintiffs have changed their minds, indicating that the City’s proposed ordinance was not acceptable,” Stoler said. “Once we learned of their concern, we acted in good faith again, asking the plaintiffs to show us their version of the merged plan that reflected the agreement. This proposal was not produced. Instead, the plaintiffs decided to proceed with litigation.”
The plan had been the source of frustration for years for a vocal group of residents who opposed dense, apartment-heavy development in Plano.
The group gathered petition signatures in 2015, trying to submit a proposal to repeal the plan to a citywide vote.
The city staff did not submit the petition to the council at the time, arguing the Plano Tomorrow plan could not be legally repealed by referendum. Plano’s comprehensive development plan was inextricably linked with the city’s zoning ordinances, city attorneys said. They further argued the local legislative process that produced the plan could not be replicated at the ballot box.
The City Council is still expected to meet privately July 22 to discuss the lawsuit. Their public meeting to vote on the plan is no longer expected to take place, Stoler said.