My Eminent Domain Experience

Background

Some of you may know that my family and I have been reluctantly involved in an eminent domain battle with the town of Flower Mound over our Bob White Lane.  I have stated from the beginning, and repeated along the way, that I do not want to sell my property.

Channel 8’s story and link to the video (about halfway down):
http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/local/denton-county/2015/02/03/flower-mound-moves-to-condemn-familys-land/22782665/

Channel 11’s and has link to the video:.
http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2015/02/02/flower-mound-woman-says-city-is-forcing-her-to-give-up-her-property/

Below is a picture presented to me and the Cross Timbers Gazette by the town to describe the area.  There are some problems with this diagram because the acreage shown and the shape of Bob White are wrong.  The town conceded that they knew it was flawed, but published this diagram anyway.  The diagram does show my neighbors, however.  Those shown with shading and touching Bob White, have easements for direct access from their properties to 2499.

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I downloaded a more current google earth map and created this diagram shown below.  The below diagram is a little more correct, as it shows the correct acreage and the correct shape of Bob White Lane outlined in black.  Also, note that it shows the footprint of the neighboring Black Walnut restaurant and its parking lot.

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The Town’s Offer and “Negotiations”

Our ordeal started September 2014 when the town sent me an appraisal and offer to purchase .585 acres of my property.  Page 2 of that appraisal clearly states the town’s objective:

“The proposed acquisition of Bob White Lane Partial Acquisition will help facilitate public access to the properties to the north and south of the existing private drive. The remainder of Bob White Lane will continue as a private drive with its existing access encumbrances.”

Looking at the diagram above, the town would only need about a 70’ by 32’ strip of my land to connect these north and south properties.   This strip would connect My Flooring America’s firelane with The Black Walnut’s parking lot.  Both private property.

Ignoring the legality, I asked, “So why does the town need the remaining 380 x 70 feet of my land?”

The Town engineer assigned to my case replied, “I don’t know, there is no plan and there is no budget.  I was only instructed by the Town Manager to acquire the property.”

The Town traffic engineer answered, “For an extra outlet for My Flooring America.”

The drawing below was emailed to me by the town engineer as an explanation of their plan.

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There was almost no detail given to me as to their plan.

Since the appraisal done on the Town’s behalf was not based on a survey of my property, there were errors in the offer and appraisal.  When I pointed out some of these irregularities, the Town engineer said, “It sounds like something good to bring up in the condemnation hearing.”

I was told that I could only negotiate with her directly and she was not offering much more than the gate shown in the drawing here.  She told me that I had been offered a fair price and I could “take the offer or turn down the offer” and if I turned down the offer, “the town would begin condemnation proceedings immediately.”

So, I was told by the Town that I could take it or leave it.

I was counseled to leave it due to lack of information and lack of willingness on the Town’s part to negotiate.  I did turn down their offer. Remember, I DID NOT WANT TO SELL my property.

Town Council Meeting

Town Council Meeting

Without notifying me, the Town Council added this item to the CONSENT AGENDA for the Feb 2, 2015 meeting.

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(The consent agenda means that with a single vote all 12 items listed that night would be approved at one time without any discussion necessary.)

Note that they avoided mentioning BOB WHITE LANE in the agenda item so as not to alert us to the action – they described it as “south of Sagebrush” (which is about 8 properties away!)  If they were being forthright, we should have been notified and they would have listed the property as Bob White Lane or at the very least “north of Firewheel”.

Link to the agenda:

http://www.flower-mound.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/02022015-1730

Link to the agenda packet:

http://www.flower-mound.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/02022015-1732

Note the .585 acreage listed in the agenda (above) and then the .966 acreage listed in the resolution on page 59 of the agenda packet:

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The Mayor and Town Council were prepared to keep this item on the consent agenda as .585 acres, vote to approve all 12 items, and then have the mayor sign this resolution to take .966 acres, WITHOUT NOTIFYING ME in advance.  This does not feel very “transparent”, as they keep trying to claim of the process.
I will repeat the Town’s objective in their offer submitted to me September, 2014 on Page 2:

“The proposed acquisition of Bob White Lane Partial Acquisition will help facilitate public access to the properties to the north and south of the existing private drive. The remainder of Bob White Lane will continue as a private drive with its existing access encumbrances.”

The Town’s objectives, assumptions, and plans were substantially different when presented by Doug Powell of the Town’s planning department in the Town Council meeting on Feb 2nd.

This is the link to the video from the town council meeting:

http://flowermoundtx.swagit.com/play/02022015-870

In this video, you will see that Doug Powell stated the town planned to stop Bob White Lane at the spine road, cut off my neighbors’ and my direct access to 2499, and route us through The Black Walnut parking lot and turn onto Firewheel Drive to reach 2499.

Additionally, it was presented that the town actually also intended to continue the sidewalk across the east end of Bob White and the hike/bike trail across the west end of Bob White.  This was never discussed in my “negotiations” with the town.

You will also see in the video that each of the Town Council members present were willing to vote FOR the taking of my property that night.  However, ultimately, the Town Council decided to table the issue (at the urging of the Mayor) until the April 20th Town Council meeting.

In The News

I believe that there were two important reasons that I still own my property at this moment:

  1. There was overwhelming outrage by the residents of Flower Mound expressed on social media over the Town’s eminent domain action.  Link to Facebook thread: ‎https://m.facebook.com/groups/268740701459?view=permalink&id=10153005882876460&fs=2&ref=m_notif¬if_t=like
  2. Someone contacted the local news media.  On the day of the meeting, Channel 11 and Channel 8 expressed interest in the story, interviewed me, and asked to interview the Mayor and Town Manager (who both declined).  Additionally, Channel 8 had a camera filming the entire meeting that night.

Channel 8’s story and link to the video (about halfway down):
http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/local/denton-county/2015/02/03/flower-mound-moves-to-condemn-familys-land/22782665/

Channel 11’s and has link to the video:
http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2015/02/02/flower-mound-woman-says-city-is-forcing-her-to-give-up-her-property/

FM council tables vote on land condemnation

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Posted: Monday, February 2, 2015 9:34 pm

FM council tables vote on land condemnation Chris Roark, croark@starlocalmedia.com Star Local Media | 0 comments
7Posted on Feb 2, 2015 by Chris Roark

The Flower Mound Town Council on Monday voted to table an item that called for a resolution to bring condemnation on 0.585 acres of land west of FM 2499 and south of Sagebrush Drive.

The condemnation would have given the town right-of-way off Bob White Lane necessary to construct a north-south road that would connect Sagebrush and Firewheel Drive.

Town officials said the road is necessary to provide an alternative traffic route for motorists exiting the businesses located near Sagebrush and west of FM 2499 who wish to go north. The spine road has been part of the town’s master plan since 1994, officials said. The project would also add trail and sidewalk connections in the area.

Janvier Scott, who owns property where the town is seeking to obtain land, said she opposes the efforts but that it’s not about money.

“I don’t want to sell my property for any price,” Scott said.

Scott said she was also concerned that the proposed project would cut off her direct access to FM 2499.

The council postponed the vote until the April 20 meeting to provide enough time for the town and the property owner to try to work out a compromise where the town wouldn’t need as much right-of-way. Council members, however, stressed the need for some sort of solution to the traffic problem in that area.

“I’m happy to give this more time,” said Councilman Bryan Webb. “But I don’t want to kick it down the road for two years. The safety of the residents is impacted here.”

CrossTimbersGazette Story

FMTC drops eminent domain action; approves $100,000 contract

Monday, 20 April 2015 18:20

Flower Mound Town Council approved 4-0 a contract Monday to pay Janvier Gentry-Scott $100,000 for .122 acre public access and utility easement and .024 acre public access and sidewalk easement. The contract followed months of discussion about the use of eminent domain to take acreage for use as a spine road for businesses along FM 2499 as proposed in the master plan.

The issue erupted after a consent agenda item appeared on a council agenda seeking eminent domain relating to property on Bob White Lane owned by Janvier Gentry-Scott, whose family has lived in Flower Mound for 50 years. About half of an acre was being sought by the town to use in creating a north/south connection for businesses between Firewheel and Sagebrush where traffic could move among businesses to gain access to traffic lights on both streets onto FM 2499.

Gentry-Scott questioned why town officials needed to use eminent domain to take her property for business use. That question spurred more than 400 comments on Facebook on the use of eminent domain.

Sharon Gentry, during public participation on Monday, gave council members a history lesson, indicating the topic of a spine road came up during hearings in 1994. Gentry said she questioned the need for a spine road and that the suggestion came from someone who was not a traffic engineer.

“Despite the argument, the master plan was approved with the changes, including the spine road suggested by an amateur. I told everyone at that time and subsequent times that we had no intention of selling the property,” she said.

Gentry said her daughter, the current property owner, was faced with two options: Allow the town to have the land or face bankruptcy trying to fight eminent domain actions.

Though she remains against losing the land, Gentry said her daughter chose to to work with what the town offered.

“I don’t want to sell the land,” said Janvier Gentry-Scott. “I would be happy if you opposed both and allowed me to keep my property and the beautiful trees.”

Mayor Tom Hayden said the town would have a perpetual easement agreement with Gentry-Scott and would maintain the property. He also indicated that while more money was offered for a larger piece, the resulting agreement was substantially less for less property.

Several residents asked town officials to consider approving the contract and dropping any eminent domain action.

Judy Collins told the council she was upset by the entire situation.

“I’ve watched Sharon Gentry over the years battle this issue over and over again,” she said adding she was not in favor of either proposal, citing it was a form of extortion.

With this threat of eminent domain … Ms. Gentry was coerced to signing this document,” she said. “I might expect extortion from a crime family but not from my town council.”

The agenda included not only the $100,000 contract offer but also the option to continue to pursue the eminent domain option, which was later rejected. Town officials said they would likely need to remove two specimen trees but would work to save other trees.

Gentry-Scott said she has never held out for more money and wanted to make that clear, adding that any money offered was simply what the town offered, not what she sought.

In February, council members unanimously agreed to allow town officials to discuss options with the landowner, setting a timetable of April 20 for a compromise before officials again consider eminent domain.

The issue erupted after a consent agenda item appeared on the agenda seeking eminent domain relating to property on Bob White Lane owned by Janvier Gentry-Scott, whose family has lived in Flower Mound for 50 years. About .585 of an acre was being sought by the town to use in creating a north/south connection for businesses between Firewheel and Sagebrush where traffic could move among businesses to gain access to traffic lights on both streets onto FM 2499.

Gentry-Scott questioned why town officials needed to use eminent domain to take her property for business use. That question spurred more than 400 comments on Facebook on the use of eminent domain.

Town officials countered that negotiations had been ongoing since August but to no resolution. Doug Powell, executive director of development services for the Town of Flower Mound, said the north/south connector off of FM 2499 behind the businesses had been part of an overall Specific Plan Area put into the master plan in 1994.

When asked how the town could avoid a similar situation in the future, Powell said Monday the situation was unique. “This is the only place that I know of in the midst of non-residential development that has residential access.”