With a legislative battle over the fate of the Texas Central High-Speed rail looming, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Pct. 3 Commissioner James Noack opposing the use of eminent domain for the project.
Texas Central Railway has received intense criticism from property owners who will lose land that has been in their family for generations if the project goes through. Running from Houston to Dallas, the privately owned rail will require the extensive use of eminent domain in the rural counties between the two cities.
The Montgomery County resolution comes after most of the counties along the rail’s proposed route have passed ordinances opposing the train. In August, the Grimes County Commissioners Court passed an ordinance requiring TCR to show proof of eminent domain authority in order to obtain a permit to cross county roads. Brazos, Burleson, Leon, Madison, Robertson, Washington, and Waller Counties soon followed suit and passed similar ordinances.
While the routes currently being proposed for the rail do not pass through Montgomery County, plans have not been finalized and TCR has proposed running the project through the western portion of the county in the past.
Noack said that leaders of neighboring counties asked him to put forward the resolution in order to support them in their fight against the railway.
“We on the court stand in solidarity with our fellow Texas counties that would be detrimentally impacted by this rail project,” said Noack. “There is no way Texas citizens will allow a private company to seize private property.”
In addition to opposing eminent domain for TCR, the resolution passed by Montgomery County also opposes the crossing of county roads by the high-speed rail. Noack pointed out that the cost of maintaining county roads would increase substantially if they were intersected by high-speed rail lines, with county taxpayers being left to foot the bill.
Many question whether TCR even has the authority to conduct eminent domain proceedings.
“At this point the consensus of the people I’ve talked to is that there is not eminent domain power by the Texas Central Railway,” a representative of the Montgomery County Attorney’s office stated.
Whether TCR has eminent domain authority will likely need to be meted out by the state legislature.
The resolution strongly encourages legislators to oppose eminent domain for high-speed rail, asserting that the county supports, “all state legislative actions prohibiting the use of eminent domain for high-speed rail activities.”
Montgomery County has passed resolutions concerning the rail in the past, however, Noack felt this resolution was needed to specifically address the issue of eminent domain and encourage legislators to protect property rights next session.
“I support all state legislative actions forbidding such conduct and vow to fight for the protection of private property rights for citizens of Texas” said Noack. “I am incredibly proud of the court for unanimously approving this resolution.”