Landowners are publicly voicing their frustration with the Tarrant Regional Water District for abusing eminent domain authority and ignoring community concerns. Despite the fact that a cheaper and less intrusive pipeline route was proposed three years ago, the TRWD plans on condemning the property of forty-three landowners if they refuse to comply with district demands.
According to affected property owners along Section 10 of the IPL project, TRWD officials reassured them a public hearing in 2011. It never took place.
Charles Crook, an affected landowner and civil engineer who’s recently received a condemnation notice, first approached the district on August 16th, 2011 with alternative routes for the pipeline. Following his proposal, a TRWD official told Mr. Crook that the route had been changed and that he would receive information detailing its new path.
The documentation never came. Instead, after months of delays, Crook was simply told his property was no longer affected but that the TRWD was “unable to release” the promised documentation to back up their claim.
A year later, he found out why. When surveyors asked to enter his land, Crook discovered that officials lied—the pipeline route had not changed. Again, in April of 2013, Crook met with officials to discuss his alternative route.
After months of delays, the district sent Crook a response in 2014 claiming that the original route was cheaper than his proposal and that they were moving forward. Conservative estimates suggest, however, that the district would save over $2 million using Crook’s alternative route on land purchases alone, in addition to minimizing the negative property devaluation landowners would suffer.
A representative from TFR’s Metroplex office met with Mr. Crook to review over fifteen pages of documents detailing forty separate communications he personally made with TRWD officials over the previous three years, along with a satellite map of both proposed routes. (see photograph)
Not only does Crook’s proposed route affect less than half the number of properties as the government’s route, it’s slightly shorter in overall length. His proposal also has one-third the number of habitable buildings along its path, meaning, fewer homeowners would be adversely affected. By following existing property lines, his route would also do a better job mitigating any incidental property devaluation.
Shockingly, the TRWD is not offering landowners adequate payment for all areas they will affect, only the portions that their pipeline crosses. Their route runs through a developed area near homeowners, splitting numerous parcels in half and rendering either remaining side functionally worthless.
By contrast, a significant portion of Crook’s proposal crosses an abandoned sandpit and numerous other mostly uninhabitable structures.
Not only has the TRWD failed to address the concerns of affected landowners, they’ve turned a blind eye to common-sense alternatives that are less costly, less intrusive and more efficient. They’ve also refused to deliver on promises to hold public hearings, and instead, have threatened reasonable landowners with hasty condemnation in an effort to intimidate others from speaking out.
The TRWD already has a shameful record of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act, wasting resources on economic development boondoggles, driving up water rates, illegally extending their board member’s terms by skipping an election and refusing to fully satisfy open record requests from state legislators.
Without a greater degree of public involvement, both taxpayers and landowners living in the district’s eleven county service area will continue to suffer. Fortunately, Tarrant County voters will have an opportunity to make substantial changes when two board members sit for reelection in May, 2015.
Assuming they don’t extend their own terms…again.