The race for Kerrville mayor got a bit tighter on Friday when a man, who is suing the city, was declared a candidate.
L. Brent Bates joins Judy Eychner and Vincent Voelkel in the race to succeed Bill Blackburn as mayor. Bates, however, would have to recuse himself from any discussion about his federal lawsuit against the city over a building he claims is being unfairly blocked by the city's development services department.
The race for mayor will be decided on May 7. Early voting starts April 25.
Bates' battle with the city stems from his development at 1001 Water Street and a mostly-built three-story building, constructed with recycled paper concrete, overlooking the Guadalupe River. The crux of the fight is the city ordered him to stop work when he didn't install fire sprinklers in the approximately 20,000-square foot building. The city said the space could accommodate as many as 200 people — requiring sprinklers. Bates argues that no more than 50 people could be in the building at any one time.
Bates filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Oct. 13, 2021, with federal Judge Xavier Rodriguez presiding. Bates said the city is violating his 14th amendment rights in denying him due process in the case of the building.
The city of Kerrville declined to comment, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.
The city has asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing that the city's development services department is still awaiting Bates' response to their request to fix problem areas on the building. Bates has appealed his decision and lost to the City Council and the city's Building Board of Adjustment.
However, Bates has accused the city of unethical practices and corruption — in the filings.
"The hearing was not conducted in a fair and impartial manner, because of the conspiracy by the City Staff to misrepresent the Law, the Code and even the basis of the Appeal itself," Bates wrote in his initial filing about the hearings with the city.
The city's arguments include a sworn declaration from Kerrville building inspector Stephen Riggs, who laid out many concerns about the project. One of the biggest concerns centered around Bates building balconies built with wood rather than structural steel. Bates argued that the innovative "papercrete" material block he was using to construct the building was structurally sound to hold the weight.
"When the city approved your shell permit, the city approved plans that
included steel balconies that would be made part of the superstructure of the building," Riggs wrote to Bates in a Nov. 24 letter. "However, you failed to build the balconies as included in your own plans and instead built the balconies out of wood without the city's knowledge or approval."
Riggs cited concerns about fire access and the ability for fire hoses to reach the structure, a lack of an engineer providing analysis of the "papercrete" material, and updated architectural plans.
Bates is no stranger to legal conflict, and the office complex at 1001 Water Street has been at the heart of numerous legal battles for years. Bates has been engaged in nearly a dozen lawsuits through the years, including twice with the Kerrville Independent School District for failing to pay taxes. Most of Bates' cases have settled before going to trial.
However, Bates was engaged in a lengthy battle of the Water Street complex with Dr. David Jones, with allegations that Bates had stolen money. The allegation led to Bates' arrest on an embezzlement charge in Hays County, later dropped when the Hays County District Attorney declined to prosecute the case.
Kerrville has retained the San Antonio law firm of Denton, Navarro, Rocha & Bernal, with partner Patrick Bernal serving as lead attorney. Bates' attorney is his brother — Fort Worth, lawyer Daniel Bates.