• December 19, 2014

Heights eminent domain decision outrages residents

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Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013 4:30 am

HARKER HEIGHTS — Steve and Rowena Costa’s home sits at the end of a private road off Farm-to-Market 2410 on a more than 14-acre lot.

Rowena Costa’s family has owned the property, which includes the R & R Trailer Court Mobile Home Park, since 1971.

But the couple is now faced with a major dilemma, as the Harker Heights City Council on Tuesday authorized the use of the power of eminent domain to acquire a piece of their property to install a 15-foot wastewater line.

“I do not consent,” Rowena Costa said. “We were not even notified that they were going to have a hearing concerning my property.”

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

The Costas are concerned that the sewer line will cut through their property and driveway and fear they will not be compensated for wear and tear their private road will sustain when the line is installed.

The couple has negotiated with the city and discussed alternatives, they said.

“We even gave them an option of going on the other side of my front fence and gate so I don’t have to put in new fencing to protect my property and have them breaking up the property,” Rowena Costa said. “It’s nothing to really upgrade the city, but it’s for their own profit and gain.”

“I don’t have a problem giving an easement in the back of our property,” Steve Costa 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.

“We had made offers in good faith and they have not,” Steve Costa said. “We have the clean hands in this situation and they do not. We’ve made and tried to negotiate and mediate without going to this extent, but they don’t even want to entertain the offers we made and it’s not going to fly.”

Although the deadline to respond to the city’s offer passed, officials are still negotiating with the couple, City Manager Steve Carpenter said.

“One of the options is changing the actual spot of the easement and changing the plans, so we are working with the design engineer to see what impact that has on the total cost of the project,” he said.

Carpenter said the Costas’ property value should increase once the sewer line project is completed and the city always leaves property in its original condition after construction.

Negotiations will continue in hopes of coming to a mutually satisfying agreement, Carpenter said. But if they don’t, the city is left with no option but to condemn the property.

“That’s really the last resort for a city to use.”

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