Eminent domain powers concern local property rights groups
The invaluable Houston Business Journal just ran two articles on development along the rail line and the possible use of eminent domain:
First effort calls for mixed-use project over transit center, by Jennifer Dawson.
Metro officials downplay the eminent domain angle, but it's useful to keep this in mind:
The power of eminent domain first granted by the Texas Legislature and approved by local voters in 1978 authorized Metro to seize vacant land, homes and businesses following payment of a "fair market price."
Thirty years later, use of eminent domain in construction of the initial 7.5-mile segment of rail followed the original intent of the state legislation by keeping private property interests from blocking public rail.
Now, Metro is taking a more active role in stimulating real estate development along rail corridors (see related story).
As a result, development activity within the 1,500-foot limit could extend the transit agency's influence far beyond the actual tracks.
Metro's eminent domain reach covers a span of five football fields in any direction. The surroundings of a single urban rail station can encompass several square blocks occupied by scores of buildings.
The potential for more property condemnations not directly related to rail has some local property rights groups concerned.
Given Mayor White's recent mention of eminent domain, local property rights groups probably should be more concerned than usual.