SCHERTZ — City Council has authorized using eminent domain if necessary to acquire private property for a sewer line along Woman Hollering Creek, but one councilman says the action is too extreme.
Councilman David Scagliola dissented on the motion, which passed 6-1 during an April meeting.
The council majority voted to enforce acquisition and condemnation if the city can’t purchase the remaining 17 easements needed for construction of a pipeline designed to flow through the creek, ending at a planned $7 million wastewater plant near Trainer Hale Road and Interstate 10.
Scagliola voiced his displeasure with the city’s approach.
“This seems to be a pre-emptive strike or legalized arm twisting,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of that concept. I wish we could have gotten more agreements before a sledgehammer goes down.”
Twenty-two easements must be procured in order for the city to move forward with the sewer project, which has been in development since the Cibolo Creek Municipal Authority agreed to construct a wastewater treatment plant on Trainer Hale several years ago.
City officials noted construction on the facility won’t begin before the sewer line is built.
Eminent domain gives government the right to usurp private property for public use, with fair-market compensation to the owner or owners.
So far, five landowners have granted the town permission for construction, City Engineer Kathryn Woodlee told Schertz officials at the meeting.
By press time, final financial offers were submitted to the other landowners.
They have two weeks to respond or risk eminent domain being exercised on their property, officials said.
“We have to keep this thing from dragging on forever, not just with property owners we are trying to acquire easement from, but ones that have granted easement,” city Executive Director of Development Brian James said. “They have an expectation that we will do the construction, move on and let them get on with their lives.”
Councilman Tim Brown noted the Legislature’s efforts to curtail such actions.
The Senate recently passed Senate Bill 421, which provides protection to landowners in seizure matters.
“I respect private-property owners’ rights immensely, and the state Legislature has made the eminent-domain process very difficult for a municipality to get to,” Brown said. “We are trying to make it as efficient as possible for the city to move forward (with the project).”
The city has about $300,000 in capital recovery, water, sewer and bond fees it can use to purchase the easements, James said.
Once they’re all obtained, the sewer project will be put out for bid.
“We need to provide sewer service because that’s what keeps people healthy,” James said. “Without sewer service, people get sick.”