Property owners in the path of high-speed train vow not to give up hope
Texas Supreme Court rules in favor of Texas Central’s right for eminent domain
MADISONVILLE, Texas (KBTX) -The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday in the case of James Frederick Miles vs Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure. In a 5-3 vote, Texas Central was granted eminent domain authority, giving the company the legal right to force landowners to sell their property to them.
Opponents and even some supporters of the controversial project thought the project was dead after Texas Central’s CEO Carlos Aguilar resigned, leaving the company without leadership.
Residents that live in the path of the railway were expecting a decision from the Texas Supreme Court but did not get the ruling they were hoping for. They say the court’s judgment is surprising, confusing, and unfortunate.
“It’s a confusing ruling to be perfectly honest with you,” said Madison County resident Gene Whitesides. " We were not expecting the Texas Supreme Court to rule in favor of a company that won’t answer the phone, can’t pay its taxes and from what I understand virtually doesn’t exist anymore.”
“It was very shocking. I am still trying to understand how the state supreme court and especially that many justices could rule once again for a company their leadership has left,” said Whitesides.
Whitesides is an army veteran that served the country for over 20 years. He says he never expected to have to fight for his land.
“I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that I would have to fight my own state as well as the federal government,” said Whitesides. “We were hoping to give my children the land and at least stay in their families for future generations could enjoy it but at this point, we don’t know if that’s even going to happen.”
Rusty Adams is an eminent domain expert with the Texas Real Estate Center at Texas A&M. He says he’s not surprised by the decision but says it could have gone either way.
”The majority opinion relied on a statute that was written well over 100 years ago that was intended to allow eminent domain to be used in order to construct interurban electric railways which essentially were short-distance, low-speed trolley cars to move people from one place to another between cities,” said Adams.
While Adams remains neutral on the subject, he says land owners may still have options.
“I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that a different challenge might work,” said Adams. “There was not a constitutional challenge brought in this case so I think there are some other possible options for challenging not this ruling but for challenging their eminent domain power.”
Whitesides says he and his family will continue to fight for their land.
“We put our faith of course in God and pray and pray for those others that are impacted by this ruling and those that have yet to understand that they are impacted by this ruling,” said Whitesides.
KBTX reached out to Texas Central and their attorneys at Jackson-Walker but have not received a response. A statement on the attorney’s website calls the ruling a “historic victory.”
To read the statement click here.
To read the ruling from the Texas Supreme Court click here.
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