EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
The Third District Court of Appeals cleared the way for the state of Texas to continue its lawsuit against the city of Double Horn, which alleges the young municipality was illegally formed.
On October 29, the appellate court reversed the district court’s decision to dismiss the state’s lawsuit against the newly formed municipality, located in the Spicewood area. The appellate court’s decision doesn’t invalidate Double Horn; it allows legal proceedings to move forward.
“As we stated before, this case is about defending the rule of law, preventing abuse of power by a neighborhood, and protecting property rights for all Texans,” stated Marc Rylander, director of communications for the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s office filed a lawsuit in March in the 424th District Court alleging that Double Horn’s incorporation was illegal under state law and did not meet two requirements as a Type B general municipality: “that the community intending to incorporate constitutes an unincorporated town or village prior to incorporation” and “the proposed boundaries include only the territory to be used strictly to be used for municipal purposes.”
Residents of the Double Horn community voted to incorporate in December 2018. The incorporation effort came on the heels of the announcement earlier that year that Spicewood Crushed Stone LLC planned to develop a quarry on approximately 281 acres between the Double Horn Creek and Spicewood Trails subdivisions.
The state contends in its lawsuit that subdivisions cannot incorporate.
“Texas law forbids subdivisions from becoming cities, including unlawful municipal incorporations like the one at issue in the Double Horn community, and entrusts district attorneys, county attorneys, and the attorney general with the responsibility of protecting the public from this abuse of power,” Rylander stated.
On April 3, State District Judge Evan Stubbs denied the state’s petition to invalidate the Double Horn incorporation, which the Attorney General’s Office appealed.
The recent appellate court decision is another step in the legal process.
According to Andy Messer of the municipal law firm of Messer, Fort and McDonald, which represents the city of Double Horn, the recent appellate court decision means the attorney general “is entitled to a trial on the merits just based on this pleading.”
“The city should view a trial on the merits as an opportunity to tell their story through factual and credible evidence, or they may decide to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court (of Texas),” Messer stated in a media release. “In either case, the city has substantial evidence that it is a valid city operation under Texas law. The city has everything to gain by moving forward with the lawsuit.”
The Attorney General’s Office is also ready for the lawsuit to continue.
“We are pleased that the court recognized that lawsuits like this have been filed in response to such complaints many times throughout the history of our state, and we look forward to continuing our case,” Rylander said.
The city of Double Horn sent out an email to its residents November 2 in reference to the appellate court decision stating, “the city council will meet to consider each option and determine the next steps.”
Agendas are posted at least 72 hours before a meeting on the city’s website. Regular council meetings are held on the second Thursday of the month. The next regularly schedule Double Horn City Council meeting is at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 14, at the Spicewood Community Center, 7901 CR 404 in Spicewood.