City-parish denies allegations in lawsuit against @Highland

The city-parish is fighting back against The Temple Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which filed suit in August seeking to stop development of a controversial 240-unit multifamily complex at the @Highland mixed-use development, which is adjacent to the Mormon temple on Highland Road.

In court documents filed in late September, the parish attorney denies all the allegations made against the city-parish in the 19th Judicial District Court lawsuit, which also names as defendants the @Higland development, owned by tech entrepreneur Mo Vij, and Key Real Estate, the New Orleans-based developer of the proposed apartment complex.

The suit argues that when the Metro Council approved the project in July, it failed to consider:

  • The promotion of public health, safety and welfare, as required by law;
  • The impact of the project on existing buildings of cultural significance, such as the temple;
  • The relationship between the proposed project and surrounding uses, particularly the uses of the temple site;
  • The density and height of the project and its compatibility with surrounding properties;
  • The preservation and protection of wetlands. 

In addition to denying the allegations, the parish attorney also makes a couple of other points about the suit that he says render it invalid:

  • The plaintiff fails to state a cause of action.
  • The case is based on allegations related to the 2015 rezoning of the @Highland site—too many years ago for the allegations to still be considered “timely.”

Perhaps most significantly, the Planning Commission is granted a certain “necessary element of discretion” in approving or rejecting projects.

The suit is the latest twist in the controversy over the two-story complex, which many residents of the area oppose because of the increased drainage and flooding problems they fear it will bring to their area.

Leaders of the local temple were not among the angry neighbors who spoke against the project when it came before the Planning Commission in June or the Metro Council in July.

On the contrary, @Highland owner Mo Vij, who originally developed the property in 2016 as an office park and only recently partnered with Key on the apartment complex, says he was “pretty shocked” by the lawsuit because the temple’s local leadership has seemingly been on board.

“The local church has no problem with it,” Vij says. “They know everything. We have been in constant contact with them and they have been nothing but supportive of us.”

He says he doesn’t know why the national organization would sue over the project.

Attorneys for Vij and Key Real Estate have yet to file answers to the suit.