Grievance Denied: Appeals court rules against Palm Valley group over golf course

HARLINGEN —  A Texas appellate court ruled against a citizens’ group in Palm Valley that was seeking a temporary injunction to prevent the city from spending public funds on a private golf course.

City officials say dredging of ponds at the Harlingen Country Club course is part of a plan to improve the city’s sewage treatment system, where treated wastewater drains into the ponds.

But Concerned Citizens of Palm Valley sued last year to block the expenditure, which it says was once as high as $4.4 million before being scaled back, saying it was an unconstitutional use of tax dollars for mere beautification of the privately-owned course.

A three-judge panel of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi upheld a lower court judge’s decision against granting a temporary injunction to stop the work. The CCPV group then appealed, and the initial court ruling was upheld by the appellate court.

Bill Elmer, a Palm Valley resident and president of CCPV, said he would be meeting with the group’s board this week to determine whether to continue legal proceedings against the city.

“I don’t know what our intentions are yet, that’s going to be up to the board,” he said Monday.

Elmer said the initial estimates of dredging one pond, Pond No. 3, provided the impetus for the citizens group to file suit.

“When we initially took them to court they were planning on spending between $485,000 and $800,000 to not only dredge the pond, but the primary part of the project is not dredging the pond, it is the edge of the ponds, retaining walls and stuff, are all slumped in and starting to bite into the Harlingen Country Club fairways,” he said.

“And the country club has no money on hand, and I think the city is trying to help them out by doing a nice cleanup on the edge at the expense of the citizens, and that’s why we initially sued,” he added. “But the other part of the project was $4.4 million. It was suggested by the city engineering adviser to do all seven ponds on the golf course with a $4.4 million price tag, which would have improved the edges of all the ponds. That got shut down.”

One of the complicating factors in the decision by the appellate court was the judges ruled the citizens’ group had no standing to sue.

“The appellate court said we as a nonprofit organization representing the citizens of Palm Valley had no standing to sue the city,” Elmer said. “If we don’t have standing to sue the city, who is responsible to see that the city follows the law?”

A call to request a comment from the City of Palm Valley’s attorney in the case, Jason R. Mann, was not returned Monday.

rkelley@valleystar.com