Tonight the Plano City Secretary reported to the City Council the petitioners did not have the required number of valid signatures for the Council to call a public vote on their proposed ordinance regarding eminent domain. The City has made every effort to provide citizens with forms and instructions on our website to help facilitate the citizen petition process. Still, the petitions submitted were non-compliant with state and city charter law.
Even if the petition had been valid, the proposed ordinance is in conflict with state law and the Plano City Charter. As a city government, we have the authority to use the condemnation process to acquire land needed for a public purpose. The Plano City Charter, which was implemented by citizen vote, states that the City has the full power of eminent domain in accordance with state law and the constitution. The United States and Texas Constitution authorize governments to condemn property for a public purpose. The Texas legislature expressly authorized this process for park purposes.
State law sets a comprehensive process for using condemnation to protect property owners rights and it requires City Council authorization. The City follows that State law in every case. Using our condemnation authority is always a last resort when needed to protect our fiduciary responsibility to Plano taxpayers, ensuring we do not pay significantly more than fair market value. In the Montessori School case the owner wants $2,225,521 for an easement and alleged damages. The easement was valued at $28,588 by the special commissioners appointed by the court. Since 2010, the City has only filed six condemnation cases with a court and four of those cases were successfully settled in a timely manner. We respect our businesses and citizens and we are committed to do everything we can to reach a fair agreement with property owners.
The City has had this segment of trail on the Parks Master Plan since 1986 and the land being discussed would provide the most affordable and preferred alignment. Over the last 4 years, the City of Plano made seven settlement offers to the property owner, Edukid, for the .205 acres the City is seeking for a hike and bike trail easement. The school is not on the tract of land that is the subject of the hike and bike trail easement. It is adjacent to that tract of land. Every offer was above the appraised fair market value, but none of the offers were timely accepted. Edukid is seeking almost 100 times the fair market value set by three special commissioner/land value experts in this case and has appealed their finding to the court which is the basis of the ongoing litigation.