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Schwertner files bill that adds some teeth to Texas' eminent domain rules

Michael Theis
Austin Business Journal
February 09, 2015

Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, has filed a bill that he said will provide greater protections for private property owners against eminent domain property seizures.

Currently, state law requires that land taken by eminent domain be converted to a public use for fair and adequate compensation. Entities such as cities and counties that take property by eminent domain are also required to prove actual progress toward the stated public use within 10 years. If, after 10 years, no progress has been made with the property toward converting it into a public use, then the original property owner can repurchase the land at its original purchase price.

"I believe governments should only use their eminent domain authority as a last resort, but the truth is, it's a power rampant with abuse and misuse," said Schwertner in an announcement heralding the filing of his bill. "Texas has a storied history of defending private property rights, and this legislation will preserve that proud tradition by holding government more accountable."

Schwertner's bill beefs up the "actual progress" definition by laying out a number of conditions, three of which must be met in order to demonstrate that such progress has been made in converting a property to a public use. Those conditions are:

(1) The performance of significant labor on the property.

(2) The purchase of materials for development.

(3) The procurement of the services of an architect, engineer or surveyor in preparation for development.

(4) The filing of an application for state or federal funds for development.

(5) The filing of an application for a state or federal permit needed for development.