EL PASO, Texas - The 8th Court of Appeals has granted Historian Max Grossman's emergency appeal to postpone demolitions in the Duranguito neighborhood Downtown.
County Commissioner David Stout told ABC-7 those who oppose the demolition of properties in the Duranguito neighborhood will "live to fight another day."
"It was very emotional, especially, after the City's maneuver that goes along with its modus operandi of a lack of transparency. I'm glad Max's attorneys got the emergency appeal granted. We will continue to fight for the preservation of this neighborhood and its history," Stout said.
"The city tried to pull a fast one by stopping Judge Garcia in his tracks with a court order that (the city) got, thinking that was all they needed to do. But the people just got an order from all three judges from the Courts of Appeal telling the City they cannot proceed," State Sen. Jose Rodriguez said.
In a dramatic move Monday, the City of El Paso obtained a last-minute "stay of execution" effectively bringing a court hearing to a halt just minutes before the courthouse closed.
The scheduled hearing was to determine if Judge Patrick Garcia had jurisdiction to decide whether the City is in violation of the Texas Antiquities Act, and to request a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) blocking demolitions.
The City's move tied the judge's hands just as he was ready to rule on the TRO, infuriating activists trying to prevent the demolition of buildings they say are historic. The move left Grossman's attorneys with 15 minutes to file an appeal before the court closed at 5 p.m. They rushed out of the courtroom and ran to the 8th Court of Appeals on a different court to file an emergency appeal.
ABC-7 was there as attorneys worked to draft their appeal in their laptop, sitting on the floor outside the appeals courtroom.
Grossman told ABC-7 his attorney was able to file the appeal by deadline. If the request had not been granted, demolitions could have begun as early as Tuesday.
In the emergency appeal, Grossman requested an order "prohibiting the City of El Paso from taking action of authorizing action to dispossess or incentivize the removal of persons from property related to the proposed construction of a new arena in the Duranguito neighborhood" and "prohibiting the City of El Paso from taking steps related to the demolition of properties located in the Duranguito neighborhood pending the Court's review of this original proceeding."
The City of El Paso was ordered to cease and desist all efforts to demolish or remove people from the following properties:
- 215 W. Paisano
- 216 W. Overland
- 220 W. Overland
- 308 Chihuahua
- 309 Chihuahua
- 312 Chihuahua
- 315 Chihuahua
Historians say three of the eight properties scheduled for demolition in the arena footprint's area could qualify to be on the National Register. The City argues there is no historic designation in the area, and with all paperwork in order, if the owners want to demolish the properties, they can.
"These guys don't play fair. This is absolutely wrong what they're doing: using the law in order to avoid justice, in order to avoid being upfront with us. We are going to fight them to the end," Paso del Sur member David Romo said.
The eight properties within the arena footprint were issued permits to proceed with demolition. The permits, issued August 28, 2017, allowed owners to proceed with demolition 14 days later.
"We see (the stay of execution) as an effort on the City's part to start demolition (Tuesday). We're asking all Duranguito supporters to come out tonight because this demolition isn't going to happen. We are going to defend our history and we are going to stand by the residents of Duranguito," said an opponent of efforts to build the arena in the Duranguito neighborhood.
Grossman argues the city is violating the Texas Antiquities Code by not notifying the Texas Historical Commission of its plans to undertake a big project, in this case, the multi-purpose center, so it can decide whether an archaeological survey is needed. Grossman and other historians claim Duranguito is the site of El Paso's first ranch.
The City argues it is too early to contact the commission because it does not own the land yet.