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Eminent Domain and Property Rights

City council in Texas furious they cannot just take man’s land who is rich enough to fight them

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 house 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.”

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.

Written by Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh for Canada Free Press ~ June 15, 2017.

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One thought on “Eminent Domain and Property Rights

  1. Lee Henry

    i think we all should be allowed to fight for our land & they give us pennies on the dollar for our property there not right ..if they wanted they should have got it back before the family got it ..the highway department of missouri took our house they gave us a fair price for it ..but i think if we lose our property to them .they do not deserve it having that attitude .

    Reply

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