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Judge dismisses all but one plaintiff from housing lawsuit - The Galveston County Daily News : News

September 1, 2014

Judge dismisses all but one plaintiff from housing lawsuit

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Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 4:46 pm | Updated: 11:19 pm, Wed Apr 30, 2014.

GALVESTON — A federal judge has dismissed all but one of the plaintiffs involved in a lawsuit that attempts to stop the construction of public housing in Galveston.

In a 36-page memorandum released Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Gregg Costa dismissed five plaintiffs from the lawsuit — four individuals and the Galveston Open Government Project, the organization behind the lawsuit. 

In doing so, Costa dismissed arguments that individuals who might potentially live in two planned mixed-income developments had standing to sue because of their fears that housing could cause unlawful segregation.

“Unless or until someone who is going to be directly affected by the rebuilt public housing believes they are suffering an injury attributable to unlawful conduct, there is no ‘case’ or ‘controversy’ to resolve,” Costa wrote of the complaints made by Texas City residents Sandy Taylor, Daniel Jerome Arvie, Terrie Lynn Griffin and Galveston resident Janet Lynn. 

In the lawsuit, all four claim that the locations chosen for two mixed-income housing developments would cause harm to them. All four of the plaintiffs currently receive housing assistance through voucher programs, though only one, Lynn, currently lives in Galveston. 

The Galveston Housing Authority plans to construct two mixed-income housing developments to replace, in part, public housing that was torn down after Hurricane Ike in 2008. The developments would contain about 140 subsidized housing units built alongside an equal number of market-rate housing units. The developments would be built on the same sites as the former Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes developments at 2914 Ball St. and 1601 Strand St., respectively.

The judge ruled that none of the four could show they had been actually injured by the choice of location for the developments or that any harm was “certainly impending.”

Costa also ruled the Galveston Open Government Project, as an organization, did not have the standing to sue over the housing developments. The group had argued that it had suffered damages because it had spent money in an attempt to educate and advocate against the housing developments.

Costa dismissed that claim.

“A group like GOGP that serves as a watchdog over local public officials strengthens our system of self-government,” Costa wrote. “But that system of self-government would suffer if anyone had standing to file a lawsuit challenging a policy merely on the basis that they disagreed with the policy choices enacted after vigorous public debate.”

The lone remaining plaintiff is now Trysha McCardell, a Galveston resident who lives about 10 blocks from the site of the proposed Cedar Terrace development. 

In his memorandum, Costa wrote that because the neighborhood that McCardell lives in could be harmed by a possible “segregative effect” caused by the housing developments, her claim could move forward. However, Costa’s ruling said that whether McCardell will suffer a “concrete injury” as a result of the construction of public housing remains pending.

A fifth individual plaintiff, Bruce Munden, removed himself from the lawsuit voluntarily on April 25, according to court records.

In a statement sent to The Daily News, the Open Government Project vowed to continue supporting what remained of the lawsuit.

“The judge made no ruling on the merits of our case, he simply couldn’t directly connect these individual plaintiffs to the fair housing violations that we outlined,” read the statement. “We are disappointed to lose plaintiffs, but happy that the case is still moving forward, and we remain optimistic on an outcome that is decided on the merits.”

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Tuesday, during which the sides will discuss both Wednesday’s ruling and the Galveston Open Government Project’s request for an injunction to stop the construction of the developments as the lawsuit progresses.

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