Toyota’s zoning powers near San Antonio plant ignite lawsuit

Landowner suing city, Toyota after rezoning for multifamily was denied

“Contract Zoning” Sparks Lawsuit Against City, Toyota
The Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility in San Antonio with Toyota's Kevin P. Voelkel (Toyota)

A lawsuit has spawned from a 20-year-old economic development contract between the city of San Antonio and Toyota Motor Manufacturing.

Fermin Rajunov, a San Antonio landowner, has sued the city and Toyota, challenging aspects of the contract, known as the Starbright Agreement, that made way for the Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility on the city’s South Side, the San Antonio Business Journal reported

The lawsuit centers on the allegation of “contract zoning,” contending that the city unlawfully relinquished zoning functions within a 3-mile radius of Toyota’s manufacturing facility.

The plaintiff seeks to invalidate sections of the agreement that granted Toyota control over zoning. Rajunov’s attempt to rezone his property for residential use within Toyota’s zoning jurisdiction faced resistance from the city, causing his affordable multifamily project to fall through. 

The city prioritized Toyota’s interests, leading to the rejection of Rajunov’s rezoning request, the lawsuit claims.

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“Aside from Mr. Rajunov, there are more than 2,000 landowners in the 3-mile buffer zone that are being denied due process of the law,” David Prichard, Rajunov’s attorney, told the outlet. “Last I checked, this was still a democracy, not a dictatorship whereby land development rights that should be afforded by [the city of San Antonio] are passed off to the highest bidder.”

Rajunov’s attorneys argue that legal action is the only recourse left, emphasizing the broader implications beyond their client’s property. The Starbright Agreement allows adjustments to clauses deemed illegal without nullifying the entire contract, the outlet said. 

Prichard expressed a willingness to pursue an amicable resolution but asserted his confidence in winning the case. The city approving Rajunov’s rezoning request could be an acceptable resolution, he said.

—Quinn Donoghue

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