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After legal blow to Plano’s comprehensive plan, city faces uncertain path forward



PLANO, TX – The city of Plano will brief council members Aug. 10 with “a detailed analysis” related to the city’s comprehensive development plan—a briefing that would fall a few days after a court said the city must submit a petition to council members that could repeal that very plan.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals on July 22 gave the city a two-week window to submit the Plano Tomorrow referendum petition to Plano City Council, which would then have the option of repealing the plan or submitting it to a citywide vote.

The city’s timeline leaves unclear whether officials intend to appeal the ruling before the Aug. 10 council briefing, submit the petition to the council according to the court’s schedule or take some other legal step.

“We are still evaluating our legal options,” city spokesperson Steve Stoler said in a July 28 email. “As a result, we have no further comment at this time.”

Council members July 27 spent nearly three hours behind closed doors discussing, among other items, the Plano Tomorrow lawsuit, which threatens to repeal the city’s comprehensive development plan. If repealed, the plan would be replaced with an older version that was in effect from 1986 until 2015.“City staff provided a briefing to Council,” City Manager Mark Israelson said in a statement that same day. “Staff is researching several options and will bring detailed analysis back to City Council for consideration on August 10th.”

Before this week’s council meeting, City Attorney Paige Mims said the city did not have immediate plans to appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court. On July 28, Stoler declined to say whether the city is now pursuing a further appeal. He also did not say whether the city planned to go ahead and submit the petition as ordered by the court.

The comprehensive plan guides city staff recommendations and signals to developers what types of uses could receive approval.

The political and legal challenges to Plano Tomorrow have been underway since the plan was passed in 2015, drawing the ire of some residents who believed it made it too easy to approve dense new apartment developments. The city declined to submit the petition at the time, arguing a comprehensive plan could not be legally subjected to the referendum process at all.

Comprehensive plans, the city has said, are inextricably linked with a city’s zoning ordinances. Furthermore, Plano has argued, the local legislative process that produced the plan cannot be replicated at the ballot box.

The court disagreed with the city’s legal argument last week and ordered the city secretary to submit the petition. The city’s next steps, Stoler said, are still being decided.