Property owners sue Missouri City mayor, city over zoning decision

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Two Missouri City business owners have sued the city and Yolanda Ford in her official capacity as mayor following a Dec. 17 City Council vote not to rezone land they purchased for commercial development.

City Council discussed the lawsuit during the closed executive session at its April 15 meeting, but did not consider any action on the item following the reconvening of the meeting. Council and Mayor Ford were recently served with the lawsuit.

Ivy Kenneth Joy Miraflor and Josefina Serrano filed the lawsuit in 151th District Court of Harris County on March 19, seeking a reversal of the decision and monetary relief between $200,000 and $1 million, according to the lawsuit.

In April 2018, Miraflor and Serrano purchased a 5-acre tract of land at Truesdale Drive and Vicksburg Boulevard intending to build a child care facility, educational and professional office, and another building for neighborhood uses.

At the time the plaintiffs purchased the land, it was zoned commercial by the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District but zoned as a single-family residential district by the city. The plaintiffs claim in their lawsuit that Missouri City benefited from this classification for over five years.

“… the higher appraisal of the Property by FBCAD results in higher taxes paid by Plaintiffs to Missouri City,” according to the lawsuit. “Thus, Missouri City has benefitted from the deemed commercial classification of the Property … on the one hand, but the City Council denied the Plaintiffs from using the Property for commercial purposes.”

The plaintiffs brought a new zoning application to the Missouri City Planning and Zoning Commission in October, and it was sent to City Council, then under Mayor Allen Owen, with a favorable recommendation.

Residents living near the proposed development attended the commission and City Council meetings to provide remarks about the development.

Many expressed concerns with creating a commercial area within a residential neighborhood that was not along a major thoroughfare, saying it would cause additional traffic problems and could become a blight if not maintained. Those in support of the project said having a business such as a day care would be positive for families living nearby, would put the land to use other than as a vacant lot and could help future home sales.

City Council members brought the community and landowners together in order to see if some compromises could be made prior to the Dec. 17 City Council vote, but ultimately, the zoning application was voted down by council.

Following City Council’s vote not to rezone the land from residential, Cally Ross Serrano, Josefina Serrano’s son, told Community Impact Newspaper in March that they were speaking with lawyers to see what they could do about the decision.

“… relief is appropriate because there is no other adequate remedy available to correct the Defendants acceptance of the Property for commercial development,” the plaintiffs say in the lawsuit.

A trial date has not been set.

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  1. The decision by the city council certainly doesn’t reflect an attitude of respect for the basic understandings of property owners in the area… It does reflect a lack of interest in resolving the situation with some degree of logic and integrity for prior disparities in rulings…

    The city apparently DID receive value for the commercial classification while maintaining its more adequate classification as residential zoning. That seems patently inadequate to the citizens expecting clarity and support… The plaintiff’s decision to act upon the CAD’s evaluation as commercial dismisses the city’s lawful responsibility to rule it one way or the other. The CAD is a property value organization… not a municipal authority, as such…

    It seems insufficiently thought out to trust the CAD’s classification when ruling property as commercial or residential is one reserved for the city…

    That all said, going to court seems to be the only, however inadequate, choice the property owners have left themselves…

    Going ahead with plans to purchase of a property without substantive, and legal supportive legal ‘boundary and zoning’ evidence seems to have been less than a well thought out decision…

    But this IS Ft. Bend County…hahaha

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Christine Hall
Christine Hall joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2018, and covers Missouri City and Fort Bend ISD. She previously reported on health care innovation for the Texas Medical Center, was a freelancer, and held various news roles at the Houston Business Journal.
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