Johnson City Record Courier
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City Council Special Session
City of Johnson City v. Lindig
Thursday, December 13, 2012 • Posted December 13, 2012

The City Council of Johnson City met Monday, December 12th, 2012 in special session to consider possible further legal action in the City of Johnson City v. Lindig suit. The city has received the verdict from the Texas Court of Appeals reversing the trial court decision to award summary judgment in favor of the city. Briefly, the City of Johnson City sued William and Peggy Lindig, seeking an injunction and civil penalties when the Lindigs continued to remodel a residential property in Johnson City after the City had issued a “stop work” order. The “stop work” order was issued because the Lindigs did not obtain a building permit. The Lindigs then filed a counterclaim. The counterclaim asserts that the building permit fee ordinance is unconstitutionally vague and is subjectively applied by the building inspector. Five years ago, the Lindigs applied for a building permit to remodel a residential dwelling for their daughter inside the city limits of Johnson City. Mr. Lindig stated that when he applied for the permit, he was told by the city secretary that he could begin the project without paying a fee. The next month, after remodeling of the home had begun, the city’s building inspector, Pete McKinney, concerned about the Lindig’s compliance with the city’s building code, inspected the property and assessed a $1000.00 permit fee. McKinney determined that due to the scope of the project, it should be treated as “new” construction, not as a simple remodel. The Lindigs refused to pay the fee and the stop work order was issued. Remodeling continued on the residence, so the city filed suit in Blanco County District Court “seeking injunctive relief against further construction.” The city also sought civil penalties against the Lindigs for non-compliance with the stop work order. The trial court issued a summary judgment in favor of the city in the amount of $42,000.00 in civil penalties, $95,077.00 in attorneys’ fees and up to $40,000.00 in conditional attorneys’ fees for an appeal and pre- and post-judgment interest. The Lindigs then appealed the trial court decision in the Texas Court of Appeals. The Appeals court reversed the portion of the trial court’s decision to award the city civil penalties and attorneys’ fees. The Appeals Court has remanded this cause to the trial court for further proceedings. The Appeals Court reversed the trial court decision on the grounds that the city’s building permit fee ordinance is void because it is vague as applied to the Lindigs and it “imposes a new construction permit fee based on the building official’s determination that the (remodeling) involves substantial work and thus qualifies as new construction.” Council adjourned the special meeting and went into Executive session. Once they returned, a motion was made authorizing the city attorneys to pursue litigation. The motion passed by a vote of four to one. Councilmember Pitman voted against the motion. He wanted to settle the dispute with the Lindigs. Council then considered the matter of the Building Ordinance Fee Schedule. At the December meeting, council charged Pat McGowan, the city attorney, and city staff with the task of reviewing the current building inspection fee schedule. City Manager Stacy Castillo requested that this item be tabled until the next special meeting in order for the city attorney and city staff to further review the fee schedule. A motion was made and passed unanimously to table this item until the next special meeting, which will be held Monday, December 18th. Finally, council had to amend the General Fund Budget Ordinance 12-008 in order to reclassify the $75,000.00 that had been allocated for the City Manager position. A motion was made and passed unanimously to put the $75,000.00 into the contingency fund pending recommendations from the Economic Development Committee. Council adjourned shortly thereafter and will reconvene at 6:00 pm, Monday, December 18th.

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