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Published: December 12, 2012
Hays Restoration Group sues city
A group of local activists and East Side residents continue to fight the city-approved deal to build a microbrewery next to the Hays Street Bridge, filing a lawsuit in Bexar County Court last week.
This summer Council unanimously approved Alamo Beer Co.'s plan to build a microbrewery on the east end of the Hays Street Bridge, despite protest from members of the Hays Street Restoration Group, whose years-long efforts saved the bridge. After years of decay Hays was closed to traffic in 1982, then considered for demolition in 1994. The Restoration Group raised money, gathered design and reconstruction estimates for the city, and by 2001 helped the city secure a $2.89 million federal Transportation Equity Act grant, administered through TxDOT, to rebuild Hays.
As sponsor of the grant, COSA had an obligation to pitch in 20 percent of the grant's total, but didn't want the liability. The city inked a contract putting the burden on the Restoration Group to raise cash to fulfill the city's obligations. In exchange, the city promised whatever assets raised or donated to the city – like land – would only be used for the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Project.
Amy Kastely, a St. Mary's University law professor and attorney representing the group, insists that project always included plans for a park adjacent to the bridge. "A park was always included whenever they said Hays Street Restoration Project," she said.
The land the city turned over to Alamo Beer in August was donated by beer distributor BudCo in 2007 with the express intent of turning it into a park, according to correspondence from the company in 2006 – although BudCo donated the land no-strings-attached, legally speaking.
In its lawsuit filed Thursday the Restoration Group claims the city unlawfully disregarded a petition with 2,800 signatures calling for a city-wide vote on the land COSA sold to Alamo Beer. They cited a state law calling for such elections whenever a city auctions off a public square or park; COSA, meanwhile, rejects the claim saying the parcel was never officially considered park land. The Restoration Group hopes to score a temporary injunction to keep Alamo Beer's plans from moving forward.
Stuck in the middle, of course, is the future of the planned East Side brewery, which, according to hours of testimony at numerous public meetings this summer, much of the public and surrounding community really does want. Under the deal Council approved this summer, Alamo Beer gets to oversee the land under Hays and approval to build a skyway connecting the multi million dollar project to the bridge. The plan also lets Alamo Beer set up tables and chairs on a 1,190-square-foot slab of the bridge deck at no leasing cost for a decade.
Therein lies another complication. According to a letter the Federal Highway Administration sent TxDOT in September, any agreement letting Alamo Beer use portions of the bridge could jeopardize that $2.89 million the feds forked over for the bridge's reconstruction costs.
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