Where We Stand: Comments Show Need for Eminent Domain Reform
We have received more than 2,000 responses to the Eminent Domain Survey on tscra.org. Common themes of intimidation, mismanagement of easements, delaying tactics and actions to ramp up landowner legal fees can be found in many of the stories landowners have shared with us.
Here are some responses to the survey that illustrate why Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) and other landowner groups are working to reform eminent domain statutes in Texas. Call your legislator and ask him or her to support eminent domain reform this session.
Little to no maintenance and management of the right-of-way
“It’s been a continuous headache. Examples are fences being torn down and not being rebuilt, resulting in cattle getting out. Brush left unprocessed in creek bottoms. Coming in during wet conditions and leaving deep ruts in the creek bottoms.
“Debris washes up on the fences during flooding and leaves the fences destroyed. Vegetation in the creek bottoms on the right-of-way reaches a height of 8-foot plus.
“Mowing of the right-of-way has been discontinued. Some spraying is now being done, but only late in the season when the vegetation has matured and reached great heights.
“Power company and contractors come onto the property and do not stay on the right-of-way because of the creek crossings and the right-of-way has not been maintained.
“I’m on record to be notified by telephone when anyone from the power company or their contractors enter my property and that seldom happens.
“It is very irritating for me to see people on my property and I have to go confront them as to who they are and what they are doing on my property.
“When an additional power line was proposed, we were advised we could send a letter to the [Public Utility Power Commission of Texas]. I sent a letter outlining all of the issues I have had to contend with since Day 1. That line was rerouted and did not go through my property. As of today, there is a proposal to add electric transmission infrastructure through my property.”
Company looked back 50 years for information against the landowner
“This company really did a lot of digging to find holes in my title to take away my leverage as a landowner. They found issues 50-plus years ago to build their case against my asking price.
“They had a survey done and sent to me showing their price was fair. I was fortunate enough to have negotiated several right-of-way agreements within the last 2 years so I am and was very up to speed with the market on pipeline right-of-ways.
“I was able to hold my ground and settle out of court. The company did file a condemnation suit against me but in the last few days dismissed the case and gave me what I was asking.
“It took 4 months from beginning to end and help from several attorneys on the navigation of this process, but I was able to handle it on my own. I negotiate professionally in my line of work and have extensive knowledge on trading.
“The average landowner could be bullied and pressured very easily into taking a price well below market value.
“There needs to be an organization where landowners can go for help and resources to assist them in dealing with eminent domain issues.”
Landowner’s time costs the power company nothing
“How can you negotiate when the outcome is already decided? You can’t say no to the condemnor. Their attorneys really seem to have a great job. They don’t mind wasting ‘my’ time since it costs them nothing. I think in this case ‘the electric company’ passes the litigation costs on to their customers. They have ‘no skin in the game.’ They don’t care what it costs.”
Too hard to buck the system
“Unfortunately there are many people who feel like it is useless to try to buck the system and they end up accepting the first offer.
“Clearly our situation with the pipeline company was basically that they were ‘stealing’ our property for 57 percent less than they were actually willing to pay.
“I often wonder how many of our elderly folks and others have been manipulated and taken advantage of by these companies that are allowed to do this by law!”
Intimidation and disrespect seem to be standard operating procedure
“They will first try to scare you into signing. If I had to do it over, it would cost them a lot more money. It has damaged our place permanently, and the county property appraisers say it does not devalue the property.
“This was a terrible experience. I have never been treated so disrespectfully in my life. These people should be put in jail for what they do.
“It seems they are so powerful they use the scare tactics to their advantage.
“I was NEVER, NOT ONCE negotiated with.”