'Trashy appearance' leads Parker to sue neighboring business

David Yates Jul. 7, 2008, 7:00am

The overgrown condition of the vacant lot across from the Parker Law Firm in Port Arthur has lead Carl Parker to file suit against the owners of the property.

A former state senator is suing the owner of the vacant lot across from his Port Arthur law office, alleging its dilapidated appearance is lowering the market value of his property.

Carl A. Parker is suing Carmike Cinemas Inc. for exemplary damages for not mowing its grass and ultimately helping to create a "trashy neighborhood."

Also seeking a permanent injunction to force Carmike Cinemas to maintain its property, Parker filed his suit on July 2 in the Jefferson County District Court.

Carmike Cinemas operated a movie theater in Port Arthur next to Parker's property before the company pulled the plug several years ago.

The suit states that the owners allowed the theater and its parking lot to fall into "bad repair" and house "noxious vermin, homeless people, trespassers" and "other nefarious activities."

The city of Port Arthur eventually forced Carmike Cinemas to demolish the theater but left the lot filled with rubble. The city again stepped in and forced the owners to remove the debris, the suit says.

But Parker claims Carmike has provided no regular maintenance to clean or watch the property and keep it in a reasonable appearance in keeping with the rest of the neighborhood.

"Regularly junk, trash and debris are dumped on (Carmike Cinemas' lot) and remain there until enough complaints prompt the city of Port Arthur to remove the debris," the suit says.

"Additionally, defendant allows grass and weeds to grow without restraint … to the extent it harbors insects, small animals and generally detracts from the appearance of the neighborhood and nearby homes and businesses."

And while the suit acknowledges that Carmike Cinemas has mowed the part of the property where the theater was located, it has never removed the grass – "which grows to various heights exceeding the heights described by city ordinance" – from the parking area on the adjacent plot.

Parker claims that because the abandoned lot is located in an area of residential and professional office properties, failing to maintain it "detracts from the general appearance" and "lowers the esoteric quality" of the entire neighborhood.

In addition, he claims the dilapidated property's appearance "discourages potential clients" from venturing to the Parker Law Firm.

Parker alleges that Carmike Cinemas' conduct is unreasonable and intentional and that the company should have known that the lack of care to the property "would cause material, personal discomfort and substantial annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities residing or doing business in the vicinity of the facility, as well as the depreciation of the market value of the surrounding property."

Parker goes on to state that because of the construction boom in the are there is a demand for office space in Port Arthur, which currently rents for $2 per square foot.

"However, over half of the plaintiff's property remains un-rented in large measure due to the trashy appearance of the neighborhood created by the lack of care or intentional conduct on the part of the defendant," the suit states. "The loss of rent of the property attributable to the direct appearance of the neighborhood is at least $10,000 per year."

Represented by Richard G. Lewis of the Boneau & Lewis LLP in Port Arthur, Parker is seeking a permanent injunction instructing defendant to maintain the property, compensatory and exemplary damages, costs, interest and other relief.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District.

Case No. E181-991

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