Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Million Dollar Swing

Aubrey has adopted some very expensive impact fees for developers.  For the last year, the council and area residents have been pushing for reform to these fees.  However, we were unable to get an action item on the agenda to make these crucial changes. 

For commercial property, the impact fees can cost as much as the land itself.  However, our mayor who owns a large track of land in The Meadows Subdivision, has exempted herself from these fees.  The fee structure is confusing to say the least, but at a minimum, this will amount to several hundred thousand dollars in fees that were waived for her. 

If that were the end of it, that would be bad enough.  However, a month prior to exempting herself from these fees, the city had to spend just under $250,000.00 on a drainage project for the same property she had exempted from these fees.   

The mayor has also delayed any attempt to reform these fees and it is becoming more and more apparent why.  She has listed her property for sale and one of the selling points is “impact fees waived”.  Therefore, the longer the impact fees remain unreasonably high, the more valuable her property is with them waived.     

These fees are meant to help with improvements to infrastructure which is definitely needed here.  If you happen to live or drive on Highmeadow Road, you will be particularly impacted by all of this, as this will be the road used for all of the construction vehicles for this additional development.  This road already shows signs of wear, and certainly will not stand to the abuse of cement trucks and construction vehicles. Unfortunately, there is no money to pay for the repairs when the road is destroyed. 

When you consider all of this, you the Aubrey taxpayer, will be on the hook to pay at least a million dollars that your mayor will directly benefit from.  If you wonder why your property taxes keep going up, now you know. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Compensation provided by the State of Texas for Property Taken Through Eminent Domain

Compensation provided by the State of Texas for Property Taken Through Eminent Domain

Over the past several legislative sessions there have be several attempts to rectify the broken Texas eminent domain laws. These changes were approved through legislation with a Constitutional Amendment in 2009 and SB18 in 2011. Those who have and utilize the power of eminent domain make claims that the system is fixed and is now fair and just for the property owner.

The Texas Attorney General's (AG) office provides legal support for state agencies utilizing the governmental power of eminent domain. The primary agency that uses this power is the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which primarily uses this authority to obtain property for right of ways for road construction and expansion across the state.

Through public information requests, the last 23 condemnation cases from across the State of Texas that were processed through the Texas AG's office show that previous attempts to provide adequate compensation for victims of eminent domain have failed. The initial offer of each of these condemnation cases was compared against the final settlement. (See chart below.) In several of these cases, there appeared to be a settlement where the victim accepted the State's offer for the property, thus avoiding a hearing. (In these instances the final settlement mirrored the initial offer, which would be extremely unlikely if a hearing before the commissioners' court had actually been held.) Even including the cases that settled, the initial offer averaged only 61% of the final offer, well below what those who use this power suggest is common.

A more realistic number is found by using those eminent domain cases that were clearly disputed and went to commissioners' court for a hearing to determine value. If you factor out the cases where the initial offers were accepted, the initial offer was 40% of the final settlement.  Clearly those entities utilizing the power of eminent domain must give a fair offer to the victim for the property being taken and that is not currently happening in most instances. Note: This study only addresses land taken by the State of Texas for roadway construction; the numbers for private entities that utilize the power of eminent domain are not publicly available. It is suspected that figures for those offers would be much lower than those of the public entities.

Presently victims of eminent domain in Texas must pay their own legal expenses and any other fees associated with attempting to get fair market value for their property. To dispute the offer of a condemning entity can easily amount to thousands of dollars. Texas Senate Bill 740 and House Bill 2684 proposes that if the condemner's final offer is 20% greater or more than the amount of the initial offer, the condemning entity must pay certain expenses, including the victim’s legal fees.

Texas eminent domain laws have obviously not gone far enough to protect private property rights. Additional measures must be completed to bring Texas up to the standards that Texans expect and deserve.  If you believe in protecting private property rights, you must support Texas Senate Bill 740 mentioned above as well as 741 and 742.  Passing them would be a good start for protecting the property of hard-working Texans.

Following is a document outlining the 23 cases including initial offer the victim received from the state and the final payment. All of this information was received from the Texas Attorney General's Office, and therefore should be considered accurate.
Contact information –
Calvin Tillman – 940.453.3640
Larry Beard – 512.461.9666

Initial Offers and Final Settlements for Takings by the State of Texas for Roadways
Initial Offer
Final Offer/Settlement
Percentage Initial Offer is of Final Settlement
Difference Between Initial and Final
Percent Final/Initial
Bouhoutos Brown
FBC Oak Cliff
Strata Holding
Art Environmental
Lubbock National Bank
Downstream 973
Downstream 973
Branch Banking
JP Morgan Chase
Bank of America
Jarmillo Revis
Metro Joint Venture


Sunday, February 19, 2017

My decision to not seek reelection-

January 18, 2016 was the observed holiday to celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 2016.  On this date, we as a family generally make our annual trip to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. My kids have grown accustomed and look forward to this trip. Even my young daughter Evie knows that this is the day we make this trip. We attend a rodeo, and the kids ride the rides and eat fair food, it has been a great event in my life enjoying this day with my family.

On this date in 2016, however, I had several meetings scheduled related to my elected position on Aubrey city council. As anyone who knows me is clearly aware, I have always maintained a professional career, and so days like this provide a good opportunity for meetings during the day, which I can normally not attend due to my career. So this date was scheduled with back to back meetings pertaining to city business.

Although she was only three at the time, my daughter Evie knew that we were supposed to attend the stock show. I was in my office preparing for my meetings and she comes running in with a sense of excitement telling me to get dressed so that we can leave for the stock show. I told her that daddy had meetings and that mommy was taking her to the stock show this year. Her smile immediately turned to a frown and she started crying uncontrollably and ran out of the room. This was completely out of character for her, as she is normally even keeled. At this moment I knew I would not seek reelection, although I still had well over a year on my current term.

So on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday 2016, I decided that I would not seek reelection or run for another elected office, at least not now. I also decided that I was going to try and get some things accomplished, and I knew I would have to be pretty aggressive to get things some things done. Therefore, I fully expected that I would ruffle a few feathers to make some of the needed changes in this city. During the 2016 election, I was so disgusted with the actions of some in our community that I frankly considered resigning in protest. Unfortunately, once you know, you can't not know, and deeper you get involved in things you see in local government, you see the pattern of mistakes and intentional disregard for the community. So I had pretty much reached my limit on local politics, but I won with a sizable portion of the vote and still had a lot of support in the community, they elected me to do a job, so I did not want to quit on them.

I send out periodic newsletters trying to keep the citizens informed of what's going on in city hall. On my last newsletter, I received overwhelmingly positive support and feedback. The citizens of this community are a whole lot smarter than our mayor and city staff give them credit for. They may not have time to show up at city hall for a meeting, but they do know what is going on and for the most part are sick and tired of it.

Over the past year, it has been more enjoyable to serve and I feel like a lot of progress has been made. There's more work to be done, but I feel good about the accomplishments we've made. Although, there was a contingency trying to get me to run for office this year, even by some who I consider enemies, I really never gave running for office again a second thought. I appreciate the support from the community, but I won't miss another trip to the stock show with my family.