Eminent Domain and Property Rights

If you ever wondered how entitled to your land and how cocky your elected board of supervisors are in regards to your property, all you have to do is watch the short video clip of such a “civil servant” from Dallas City Council, frustrated that she cannot confiscate for pennies on the dollar via eminent domain, the property of a wealthy Texan who had the money to fight them for years.
Monty Bennett owns the East Texas Ranch LP which has been in his family since 1955 when it was purchased by his grandparents. Tarrant Regional Water District wanted to run huge pipes through his property and he did not want the family land altered by the digging and wildlife affected by the 84-inch pipes. He sued them under Civil Action No.2014C-0144.
It was reported that Bennett tried to speak to the TRWD but “they refused to see him.” To protect his land, Bennett did something that even a famous Roman tried to do in order to avoid paying taxes to the Roman Empire, he buried a fly on his property with pomp and circumstance. Bennett actually built a final resting place on his property. Texas Law 711.035 exempts cemeteries from “taxation, seizure by creditors and eminent domain.”
There is one “public servant” in support of Bennett’s fight, Henderson County Commissioner Precinct 4 Ken Geeslin, who does not like the idea of eminent domain. He is quoted as saying to the Athens Review, “First off, I am not in favor of eminent domain. The government can come take property that may have been in a family for generations. I just can’t see that being right.”
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often make contracts with property owners in exchange for grant money or reduced taxation. They are called “easements.” These NGOs are distributing grants to landowners strapped for cash who often enter into them in perpetuity, unable to do much to their land unless the NGO approves.
The property owners who have agreed to the terms of the pipes running through their property did not understand the size and the scope of the digging and the amount of mud excavated in the process. Geeslin said, “I don’t understand why they have not looked for alternative routes for the pipeline. They could possibly find a route that would not affect so many people.”
As it stands, the city was forced, after much litigation and expense in court to the tune of millions in taxpayer dollars, to alter the plans and to move around Bennett’s property. The Dallas City Council was asked to settle the case with Bennett out of court.
Sandy Greyson, District 12, was beside herself with indignation that she could not take a rich man’s land who had enough money to fight them in perpetuity. She did not believe that it was fair that Bennett had so much money and could fight them in court when “ordinary people, who cannot afford to fight the city of Dallas,” lose their property. It seemed outrageous to her that she could not take his property too. She said, “He’s fought us for years and has cost Dallas taxpayers millions of dollars.”
“I’m not blaming anyone that we’re settling this case, but it’s just infuriating that if you’re rich enough, you can hold the city hostage for years and get what you want. There’s something really wrong with that,” she said. She did not see anything wrong with taking someone’s property that the City Council did not own, it was just wrong because she could not take everybody’s property.
As reported, the government is a victim because it no longer wishes to spend money on court costs or cannot afford to, in order to “force a citizen to give up land he does not want to sell.” http://www.sott.net/article/352989-City-council-in-Texas-furious-they-cannot-just-take-mans-land-who-is-rich-enough-to-fight-them
We understand the need for land in order to build highways, schools, hospitals, and interstates but, when the government intercedes on behalf of commercial businesses, claiming that the public good’s economic benefit exceeds the interests of the property owners, is an entirely different issue. A business should pay for the land competitive market prices if the land owner is interested in selling.
Confiscating the land by condemning a poor neighborhood in order to build a shopping mall, a hotel, a bike path running in front of a person’s house and through an old beloved magnolia tree, cut down without permission, or a parking lot, is problematic at best, particularly when the local government gets to decide what a fair price for the land in question is.
The councilwoman obviously did not have in mind “the greater good” claimed by eminent domain for the people in her precinct. She just wanted landowners to bend to the Council’s wishes sooner rather than later.

2 thoughts on “Eminent Domain and Property Rights

  1. My husband and I live in one of the last pristine prairies in Nebraska, a unique area known as the sand hills, a 250 mile radius of sand hills covered in grass. We have several endangered species of birds, beetles and wild life on our property. A power company NPPD, that belongs to a huge 7 state power pool are now in the process of building a 225 mile huge tower power line through the heart of these hills and many ranches that have been in families for years. We are fighting these bullies, who have harassed and lied to many people to get easements signed. They are now in the process of condensing our property, that Dr. Kay Kottas has walked and written about it should never be touched. savethesandhills.com will let you see what we are fighting. I was so pleased to read your article. The U.S.Fish and Wildlife are being slapped down by Washington lobbyist and have given in to NPPD. Is there anything you could write to help us? These people seem to buy off any official or agency that will help us. This line goes through the main migratory flight path of millions of birds, the Whooping crane,Bald eagle and Golden eagle and Burying beetle are all on endangered list and live right here, and no one seems to care enough to speak out, we have fought for 3 long years along with many neighbors, we are not like the man from Texas with unlimited money, we need a voice, our local radio station The Twister, located in Gordon Ne. gives out information and so helpful, Mr Jim Lamley is not afraid to speak out , I am sure he would love to have your comments on this travesty, however you may be contacted by NPPD and even intimidated by them as have many others. Not true of Mr Lamley and about 200 people who are still holding out signing the easements. I am sorry to ramble on but your article was almost a ray of light in our dimming fight, the wind farms will destroy these fragile hills, and the power lline is being put in to make way for them. We rest with several other states on one of the worlds largest qualifier and they want to place lines in the sand down 45 we have wells at 30 feet that have to be approved by the state and registered when we drill, not so this power company that is not a state company, the name Nebraska Public Power District is just a name that people assume is Public power. I thank God that there are still people like you who speak out. Thank you for reading this if you ever get to Nebraska you have a friend here at Brush Creek Ranch.

    • sent a letter dd you get it I can fax it to you I read your article and thought you would be interested in our terrible situation, but your site says it is waiting moderation

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