Rotary Club of Dripping Springs

Eminent Domain - Patrick Reznik

Posted by Debra Maddox on Oct 02, 2017

Attorney Patrick Reznik from Braun & Gresham

Mr. Reznik gave a very informative talk regarding transmission lines, pipelines, routing roads, and condemnation easements. His business is protecting the land owner when these projects are slated to go across their property and he apparently represents landowners all over Texas.

Transmission lines are power lines, pipelines can be oil, gas, water distribution. Transmission lines are regulated by the Railroad Commission. Pipeline Companies are for profit. They do all their planning in secret, then surprise the homeowner with their plans when they plan to execute. If there are already transmission lines/pipelines on a property, more lines/pipelines can be run parallel to the existing ones on a parcel. Property owners need to pay careful attention to the title exception report when purchasing property. The easements, if on the title report, can be accessed at a later date and the land owner has little say in the matter. There is something called a “Blanket Easement” that allows pipelines anywhere on a property. If purchasing a parcel of land/ranch that has this easement on it, proceed with caution, because pipelines can be put anywhere on the property at any time.  Patrick from Braun & Gresham said that once the Railroad Commission has set their sights on your property, he can act as an intervener. All is done in the Public. All affected land owners can get together to re-route transmission lines. Transmission lines do bring down the value of a property. Reimbursement to the land owner is for only the part of the property that the power line is sitting on, then the rest of the parcel is called the remainder.  Damage to the remainder is often the issue. The Utility may appraise the remainder at a higher value than a land owner. Another type of damage that may arise, are damages to the Community or damage that affect all.
If the Governing Body wants to take over all of your property, then it is called Eminent Domain. The steps are as follows: 1. Call-you will be advised of the initiation to condemn your property.  2. Bona Fide Offer- It is the Condemners official offer and it has a 30 day deadline 3. The law requires a written appraisal and a 14 day final offer. Time is of the essence and the sooner you get an Attorney involved the better. If you say no to condemnation, then a lawsuit is filed. The Judge appoints 3 land owners that live in your County to act as Commissioners. Their job is to listen to all involved and award compensation. After the award, then construction begins.  As a land owner, you may file an appeal, then it is heard in regular court.
Regarding easements, it is caveat emptor, buyer beware. Realtors are nor bound to tell potential buyers of the easements on property. There is a landowner alert system that Braun & Gresham distributes twice per month via email on interesting land topics. It may be a good time for all of us to sign up for it. 
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