New Texas Law Will Prohibit Cities, like Lumberton, TX, from Secretly Using Eminent Domain
Earlier this year I uncovered that the City of Lumberton, TX had secretly used Eminent Domain to take over 100 acres from a man and told the man he was only going to get $2000 per acre. This man took the city to court and the city lost and was ordered to pay over one million dollars to the man. None of the residents knew about the use of Eminent Domain, and no residents knew that there was a judgment against the city for over one million dollars because it was all kept secret by the city. To put a one million dollar judgment into perspective, the yearly budget for the city is only about three million dollars.
This secret use of Eminent Domain really bothered me, especially since the City of Lumberton has had problems with eminent domain in the past. I even contemplated doing a petition for the people to vote on creating a city ordinance that would prohibit the City of Lumberton from secretly using eminent domain and would help protect the property rights of the people of Lumberton. It looks like I will not have to do any petitions.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed a new law, SB 18, that strengthens Private Property Rights. This new law includes a requirement that public entities must take a public vote to initiate eminent domain proceedings.
Texas State Representative Charles Perry had this to say about SB 18:
Private Property Rights were strengthened by Senate Bill 18, which requires governmental entities to take a public vote to initiate eminent domain proceedings. It also requires condemning entities to make bona fide offers in writing, or if they fail to do this, it requires the entity to pay the landowner's expenses and attorney's fees. SB 18 also levels the playing field by requiring that a condemning entity compensate landowners for damages from a loss of access to their property, as well as provides relocation assistance if a landowner is moved off of their property due to the eminent domain process. It goes further to include buy-back provisions and clarify that the land may only be used for a public use.