Landowners, farmers, ranchers and business owners living in Robertson County are caught in the middle of a battle with Union Pacific. About two months ago the company announced plans to build a $200M rail terminal between Mumford and Hearne. The project has been touted by local government officials as a boost for the local economy -- But the landowners want Union Pacific to pick another route.
In fact, Monday evening, many in Robertson County opposing UP's proposed agreement took their fight to the George Bush Librar where Congressman Bill Flores will hold a town hall meeting. Many are claiming the decision will turn their land into a noisy, dirty, contaminated industrial wasteland.
“I try to imagine what it could be like, and I don't like what I'm imagining,” said Sam Corpora.
It's an image that could potentially call for an emergency landing for Sam Corpora's 65-year-old family crop dusting business -- that is if Union Pacific -- permanently moves in.
“For them to do what they intend to do here, it's really nothing short of disaster,” Corpora said.
Not only will Corpora take an estimated loss of $150,000 a year, his neighbor, Gathan Reistino, will lose 85 years of hard work and rich farmland he intends on passing down to his grandchildren.
“They told me they were going to take 1200 acres, and 380 of those acres are mine,” explained Reistino.
An aerial view gives a closer look at Rustino's property which sits at the epicenter of Union Pacific’s proposed $200M rail terminal.
“My two grandchildren that live on the farm, they're [UP] going to take their house and they'll have to find another place to live, it’s just a terrible feeling,” said Reistino. “It was hard times back in the day, and there were times when I couldn’t make payments on my land, but times have never been like this. I never imagined I’d be going through this.”
Patrick Destefano is a third generation farmer in the Brazos Valley, in fact, Destefano and his three brothers have made farming a way of life.
“I’m going on my eighteenth year; and we’re one of the bigger farmers to lose the most land that we rent,” Destefano said.
Destefano tells News 3 he’ll lose 15-20 percent of the acres he currently farms.
“We’re losing a house and 8.5 acres of land. And one day they could broaden it if they expand,” said Destefano. “They didn’t go to Mr. Reistino who will lose everything; everything he’s been working for his whole life. The person who rents the land and I feel they wanted to pick who they saw and I think they’re going after the little people, the person who rents his land and would rather have a lot of money and not have to deal with it; but the person who lives here and works here and will be here until he dies, they didn’t go and see them.”
State laws are in effect to protect private property owners' rights in regard to eminent domain concerns; but in this case, the residents say, Union Pacific ultimately has the upper hand.
“Cities have it, states have it and it's supposed to be for the public good, but in Union Pacific's case, it's only good for the railroad,” said Corpora.
“Life in the Brazos Valley will never be the same if Union Pacific comes in,” Reistino said.
It's unclear when UP plans on making a decision, which leaves these residents with an uneasy outlook for their future.
“I wouldn’t take any offer from UP,” said Reistino. “There are no dollar worth the value of my land; it’s not the dollars, for me, it’s the sentimental value.”
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