July 3, 2008

P&Z Not Comfortable With Eminent Domain

By Loyd Cook, Corsicana Daily Sun, Texas

Jul. 3--The apparent message from the Navarro County Lake Planning and Zoning Commission? A fresh water supply district is fine with them, as long as the right of eminent domain that goes with it can somehow be removed.

A lengthy presentation by an attorney advising the county indicated that, in the absence of any case law on removing eminent domain, either an attorney general's opinion or passage of a special bill by the state Legislature is likely necessary to address county concerns.

"You've just heard the three 'straw' polls I've taken of the (P&Z) commissioners," commission chairman Terry Jacobson said to representatives of Southport Marina, the business requesting the district. "When we talked about removing eminent domain, it got overwhelming support. With (eminent domain) still there, it was the opposite."

A fresh water district, according to attorney Matthew Wallace, exists for the purpose of providing fresh water and sanitation services. In the case of Southport Marina, it cannot provide the water since it exists within the already-in-place water service are of M.E.N. Water Supply Corporation.

A Southport representative said that it has an agreement to buy water from M.E.N., and only wishes to provide sanitation services.

The company is awaiting a decision by the Navarro County Commissioners Court to call a special election, just for the 40-acre site that the fresh water supply district would encompass.

County Judge H.M. Davenport was present at the Wednesday P&Z meeting, asking several questions. His concern also lay in the area of use of eminent domain powers by a future controlling interest in a fresh water supply district.

Wallace said that if such a district was created, it would initially be run by a board of special commissioners appointed by the commissioners court. After the district was "up and running," he said, it those positions would be elected ones with votes cast by those property owners within the district.

Also, the district would have the right to sell bonds and to levy a tax.

Responsibility of the bonds would be only on the property "put up" for the bond money, according to one Southport representative. Wallace agreed with that assessment.

No action was taken by the Planning and Zoning Commission at the meeting.

"This wasn't an action item," Jacobson said. "The commissioners court wanted us to examine the issue, ask the questions that needed to be asked ... to vet it for them. Ultimately, whether or not an election (to create the district) is called is up to them."


Loyd Cook may be reached via e-mail at [email protected]


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