• July 24, 2014

Heights levies power of eminent domain

Tract of land needed for wastewater system extension on FM 2410

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Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014 4:30 am

HARKER HEIGHTS — The city once again is levying its power of eminent domain to condemn a 15-foot-wide wastewater easement and a 30-foot-wide temporary construction easement on, through and under a 0.596-acre tract of land conveyed to Alvin Reece “Butch” Sutton Jr., independent executor of Christine Sutton’s estate.

The city is in the process of extending its wastewater system on Farm-to-Market 2410 and needs that property for the extension, since the city deemed it the “most logical adjacent location for the facilities,” said Mark Hyde, public works director.

Approximately 1,726 linear feet of 18-inch diameter gravity sanitary sewer line will cross the Sutton property with five standard 4-foot diameter manholes.

Sutton said when the city approached the family about the easement, they refused payment in exchange for the city providing them with water and wastewater service.

Technically, the property is located within Nolanville city limits, but it falls within Harker Heights’ service area. Sutton said the city declined his proposition, stating the city would lose money, something Sutton can’t wrap his head around.

“We have an active offer on the property by D.R. Horton and having or not having sewer service to the area will ultimately affect the selling price,” he said. “The price will either go up or down based on whether the builder needs to put in a sewer line. Instead of allowing us to tie into it, the builder would have to put another line in parallel to theirs.”

D.R. Horton is interested in building 600 lots, Sutton said.

Steve and Rowena Costa, whose home sits at the end of a private road off FM 2410 on a more than 14-acre lot, abutting the Sutton property, were concerned the sewer line would cut through their property and driveway.

Last year, the couple feared they were not going to be compensated for the wear and tear their private road would sustain during installation of the sewer line.

Hyde said the city offered to pay the property owners $4,205 for use of the land, but the Costas refused the offer and countered with some of their own.

The city ultimately settled with the Costas for $5,205.

Hyde and Burk Roberts, city attorney, have been negotiating the purchase of the easements from the Suttons at the appraised value of the land for more than a year.

The Suttons declined the city’s initial offer of $9,821, a figure provided by Atrium Real Estate Services of Austin, which appraised the property’s value. The real estate company’s recommended payout would compensate the Suttons for the 15-foot permanent utility easement and two 15-foot temporary utility easements.

Currently, the city is preparing to send the Suttons a final offer of $14,821.

However, Hyde said to avoid unnecessary delay in the project, the City Council on Tuesday voted to initiate formal condemnation procedures in the event negotiations are unsuccessful, which is a path the city does not want to travel if it doesn’t have to, Hyde said.

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