Dallas Court of Appeals holds trial court had jurisdiction for BOA appeal only, but no monetary or constitutional claims could survive the board’s plea
City of Dallas, et al v. PDT Holdings, Inc., et al. 05-21-00018-CV (Tex. App. – Dallas, August 24, 2021).
This is an appeal from a board of adjustment decision where the Dallas Court of Appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part.
PDT Holdings, Inc (“PDT”) applied for a permit from the City to build a duplex on its property in Dallas. PDT submitted building plans, which were approved and began construction. However, a City inspector cited PDT and issued a stop work order on the grounds that the structure did not comply with the thirty-six-foot height restriction. PDT adjusted the plans down to 36 feet, but was then told the actual height restriction was twenty-six feet due to the residential proximity slope (RPS) ordinance after it had completed 90% of the construction. PDT sought a variance for the height restriction (three story duplex) but the variance was denied by the board of adjustment (“BOA”). PDT appealed to district court but also sought a variety of monetary damages caused to the project. The matter was temporarily abated by agreement and the parties resubmitted to the BOA (with all new members), which again denied the request. The BOA filed a plea to the jurisdiction which was denied. The BOA appealed.
A district court has subject matter jurisdiction only to decide whether the Board’s decision was illegal under section 211.011. The BOA argued the original appeal to district court was timely but attempted to assert PDT had to appeal the 2nd denial and failed to do so. The Board cites no authority for this requirement other than the general requirement that a petition for writ of certiorari must be filed within ten days of the Board’s decision. The court held the second BOA decision did not change the substance of the controversy between the parties or the issues before the trial court. Further, nothing demonstrates the trial court lost jurisdiction over the first decision, over which it would still be allowed to proceed. As a result, the trial court properly denied the plea as to the illegality question only. The court next held that it must evaluate jurisdiction based on each claim. PDT did not specify what cause of action entitled it to recover damages or cite express authority waiving governmental immunity for recovery of damages. The plain language of section 211.011(f) does not authorize an award of damages. Further, there is no implied right of action to recover money damages for violation of the due course-of-law provision of the Texas Constitution. The Texas Constitution authorizes suits for equitable or injunctive relief only. But this limited waiver of immunity exists only to the extent the plaintiff has pleaded a viable constitutional claim. The court agreed with the BOA that PDT does not have a vested property right in obtaining a variance from the RPS ordinance. The mere existence of a building permit does not render an ordinance unenforceable. A person does not acquire a vested right in a building permit issued in violation of an ordinance. Here, jurisdiction exists for judicial review of the Board’s decision under section 211.011 only. The plea should have been granted for all other claims.
If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Justices Nowell, Osborne and Pederson. Opinion by Justice Nowell.