Fourth Court of Appeals holds plaintiff suing for BOA decision must be given opportunity to replead to show timing of when the BOA decision was filed in board’s offices
Alpha Securities, LLC, v City of Fredericksburg, 04-20-00447-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio, Aug. 10, 2021, no pet h.).
This is a board of adjustment appeal and declaratory judgment action where the San Antonio Court of Appeals agreed no jurisdiction existed, but remanded to provide the Plaintiff the opportunity to replead.
Alpha Securities purchased real property in Fredericksburg’s historical district. It sought a variance to expand its doors so the building could be used for commercial uses. The historic district’s review board approved the expansion of one door, but not the other on Milam St. As a result, Alpha Securities was unable to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, water and electrical services. Alpha Securities appealed the determination to the City’s Board of Adjustment (BOA), and the BOA denied relief. Alpha sued the City, which filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court granted the plea and Alpha appealed.
Alpha’s first argument, that the City did not timely seek a ruling on the plea, was overruled. Subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived, and courts cannot acquire subject matter jurisdiction by estoppel. Alpha attempted to bring ultra vires claims but did not include any specific officials. Such claims were properly denied. To the extent Alpha Securities intended to establish that the review board and BOA violated the law, including its constitutional rights, the UDJA does not waive the City’s governmental immunity. Next, the court analyzed the timeliness of the appeal. The appeal clock does not start to run at the time of the BOA decision- rather when the BOA’s decision “is filed in the board’s office.” The pleadings do not establish the date when the BOA’s decision was filed in the board’s office. Because Alpha Securities’ pleadings are insufficient to establish jurisdiction but do not affirmatively demonstrate an incurable defect, the trial court should have given Alpha the opportunity to replead. [Comment: this appears to require pleadings to affirmatively list the specific dates for deadline compliance in order to establish jurisdiction]. The City asserts Alpha repled three times and should not be allowed to do so again. However, the Fourth Court determined that was inconsequential in this case. If the trial court determines the plea is meritorious and the pleadings are deficient, the plaintiff must then be given a reasonable opportunity to amend the pleadings to cure the jurisdictional defects. As a result, the case was remanded.
If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Justices Chapa, Rios, and Rodriguez. Memorandum opinion by Justice Rodriguez.