AUSTIN, Texas - An Austin court is expected to make a decision in a few days regarding a lawsuit related to the state permit for the on-site archeological study of the neighborhood where the City of El Paso plans to build a Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center (MPC).
The City has said it plans to begin demolition of city-owned structures within the arena footprint as soon as Monday, November 19, 2018. Historian Max Grossman is asking the court to stop the demolition of the structures. Grossman and those against the arena project argue some of the buildings the City plans to demolish are historically significant.
Grossman sued the Texas Historical Commission's (THC) executive director, Mark Wolfe, arguing Wolfe signed a demolition permit for the City's archeological contractor in violation of THC rules. Grossman argues the permit request should have been considered and put to a vote by the entire commission.
Thursday, the 261st District Court of Travis County heard arguments from all parties in a lawsuit. Grossman's suit seeks to have the THC revoke the permit issued to the City of El Paso for the MPC's on-site archeological study.
The court will allow both parties to submit more arguments in writing and will make a decision at a later date. No demolition may happen until then.
According to the City, the archeological study encompasses four phases: archival and historical research, ground-penetrating radar survey, mechanical survey and an additional investigations stage. The City said additional investigations would only be conducted if intact archeological deposits are discovered. "The next phase is the ground-penetrating radar survey," the City said in a news release, "Discoveries will be handled in accordance with state law."
"We believe the commission and the staff are well within their authority. The argument Dr. Grossman is making is whether or not the commission went beyond the scope of its authority," said El Paso City Attorney Karla Nieman.
The City's study is being conducted by Moore Archeological Consulting, Inc., "a firm that specializes in completing archeological investigations in urban settings," the City said. The permit and the work needed to conduct the study were approved in October 2018 and are required by the state for projects to be built on five or more acres of publicly-owned land.