By Mike Barnett

Texas Eminent Domain Battle

We’re all aware of the financial toll of unfair eminent domain laws in the Lone Star State. Horror stories abound of sweet arrangements dealing raw hands to landowners when Texas laws deem property can be taken for the public good. What is rarely told is the human toll these archaic laws can extract.

Jim and Nazneen Talukder found the United States to be a land of opportunity. Natives of India, they immigrated first to California, and then found success in their medical practice in Texas. Jim had fond memories of his uncle’s farm in India, where he recalled fields of rice and wheat. Nazneen’s idea was to eventually build a home in the country. They followed their dreams to a perfect piece of land just north of McKinney—25 acres of green grass, trees—a place where they could entertain their friends and family, and perhaps make a home. Or so it seemed.

The illusion of an idyllic country life was soon shattered. With close proximity to Dallas, McKinney and surrounding communities are booming. With increased population comes the need for more public services, water and sewer included. The sewer lines between McKinney and neighboring Melissa come to a confluence at the Talukder farm. They were about to experience the horror of eminent domain laws in Texas.

Jim’s first experience in the fight for his rights as a property owner was an eye-opener. Trying to get a fair deal, he hired a lawyer. The land was condemned anyway. Jim was out both time and money. What followed were four years of construction, four years of animals escaping from torn fences, four years of heartbreak as the family watched the land they loved ripped and mangled by huge machinery.

Today, the land has been pieced back together in a hit or miss fashion. A sinkhole near the creek that borders the farm causes Jim concern for one corner of his property. A raw wound running the length of the property has been left by construction crews. A debris field straddles the center of the property. Unsightly manholes—the largest measuring four feet tall by eight to ten feet wide—dot one side of the small acreage.

Land that once brought pleasure now draws pain. More strife is due as another sewer connection is in the works. Efforts by Jim to negotiate how the line is to be run and the placement and configuration of more manholes failed.

Money talks for those with the power of condemnation, Jim feels. Financial considerations of the landowner are left unheeded. Who cares about emotional attachments? Damn the landowner. The cheapest route is the road taken.

The landowner is left to pick up the pieces—if they want them. Nazneen doesn’t. Jim is not sure. What once was a place full of laughter, of family and business get-togethers, now languishes. The joy is gone. What’s left is dreaded anticipation of the future.

Eminent domain laws in the Lone Star State are broken. Texans will have the opportunity to fix them as the Texas Legislature convenes in January. Let you state representative and senator know how you feel. Let the governor know, too.

Texas Farm Bureau members will lead the battle. We hope you will join the charge.

 

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
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One Response to “The human toll of Texas property laws”

  1. Mike Barnett says:

    There is another option for water supply for the DFW metroplex. The Red River, which forms the Texas/Oklahoma boundry flows east, then south through Arkansas and Louisiana, eventually to the Mississippi River. The river has been made a navigation channel for river barges as far upstream as Shreveport, Louisiana, where the navigation lock and dam have created a large lake and a fisherman’s paradise, bringing in millions of dollars to the regional economy. The famed Bassmaster’s tournment was held there last year. There is a proposal under considration to extend the Red River navigation system to Lake Texhoma at Denison, Texas. This would mean construction a dozen or more locks and dams on the Red River, each of them creating a navigation lake, storing millions of gallons of water. The massive project would provide an alternative to the condemnation of farms and homesteads for the construction of reservoirs. In addition to water recreation, it would provide the region with access to the nation’s 12-thousand-mile network of waterborne transportation, linking north Texas to river ports and industrial centers worldwide. It would be a construction project on scale of the McClellan/Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System completed in 1972 which links Tulsa, and scores of ports and terminals in Oklahoma and Arkansas to worldwide shipping, boosting the economy of the region and creating thousands of permanent, good-paying jobs. It’s an big idea but not to big for Texas.

    Administrator’s note: This response was written by Keith Garrison in Arkansas. He could not post on the site for some unexplained cyber-reason so I am posting it under my name. Thanks Keith!

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