eminent domain

Monty Bennett’s quiet but intense demeanor, overflowing wallet, and stature as a head of a hotel investment company earn as many friends in high places as narrow-lidded grudges, but — love him or hate him — this Dallas businessman sits in the same precarious position as an untold number of ordinary property owners around the country.

Eminent domain.

Fighting the government to keep your private property is a battle arguably no one should be forced to endure, yet all around the United States, landowners like Bennett — whose ranch, The Lazy W, or officially, East Texas Ranch LP, has been in the family for generations — have been subjected to an unfortunately common tactic employed by an arrogant State run amok.

Bennett, however, has been fortunate enough in business dealings to afford a legal feud with the Tarrant Regional Water District — which seeks to usurp part of his ranch for an enormous water line — in an epic battle for control so revealing of the hubris of the State, everyone needs to take notice.

“It all started a few years back when the entity responsible for getting water to Fort Worth, the Tarrant Regional Water District, let it be known that it intended to take part of Bennett’s ranch and lay a pipe across it,” D Magazine reports. “The water district sued Bennett in an attempt to get the land. The case made its way to the Texas Supreme Court, where Bennett won on a procedural matter before being bounced back to a district court in Athens, where it now sits. In the meantime, his fight with the water district has grown from a pipeline right-of-way dispute into a battle over issues concerning accountability and openness in government.”

Since 2011, Bennett has made plain TRWD will not receive a green light to steamroll the issue, and he’s spent hundreds of thousands contesting eminent domain — one of the government’s most insidious legal holdovers whereby the thinnest of justifications for the usurpation of private property can be implemented to steal rights to your land — as long as that theft of property is conducive to infrastructure or some other public ‘need.’

Perhaps because Bennett’s skirmish with the State has dragged on for nearly seven years, the tidily-composed façade of public interest in which the City of Dallas has festooned its impetus for stealing part of the Lazy W went up in flames at a recent City Council meeting — thanks to voluminous hot air delivered from the lips of Councilwoman Sandy Greyson.

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Greyson wasted no time clarifying the imperious nature of the city’s complaint against Bennett, asserting the wealthy businessman “cost Dallas taxpayers millions of dollars, and intends to cost us millions more — unless we settle with him by going around his property.”

Of course, Greyson, the rest of Dallas City Council, and TRWD have indeed ignored from the start the possibility this seven-foot water line could have been diverted through lands either not owned privately, or those privately held, but whose owner would have been amenable to the project.

Rather than even acknowledging such a possibility, Greyson instead vilified the legitimate land ownership — foisting Bennett’s concrete opposition as an ineluctable stance against the supposed greater good. She continued,

“Now, other, ordinary people — regular people like you and I, who can’t afford to fight the City of Dallas over an eminent domain case for years and years — I mean, we wind up getting our property taken.”

That scofflaw of a defense for offensive actions — a loose logical fallacy in appeal to authority — would win no support from those who have lost the rights to property in their possession to a State so behind in infrastructure innovation as to make eminent domain still a viable means to writ large any project it chooses.

It isn’t as if Bennett recently purchased the Lazy W — eminent domain claim already pending — the property has been in his family since 1955. Understandably, he does not want construction and the water line to invade the tranquility of the property — or to upset the ecosystem maintained in a wildlife refuge there.

Bennett has gone so far as to install a cemetery on the land, because, under Texas law, that feature is exempt from “taxation, seizure by creditors and eminent domain.”

That matters little to an obdurate council intent on implementing a project to the letter of its original plans — rather than conceding a new route for the water line could be a tenable solution for all sides involved.

Calling the government’s theft-of-private-property plan “necessary,” because, Greyson sanctimoniously postures, “we need water lines. We need some of these public improvements.”

Nominally acknowledging the seizure of land through eminent domain might ruffle feathers on occasion, Greyson added, “it’s just infuriating, that if you are rich enough, you can hold the city hostage for years, and then get what you want. There’s something really wrong with that.”

Thus, all signs point to the embittered city councilwoman’s issues with the law — that is, when it works in favor of a people attempting to resist its oppressive clutches.

Let that sink in for a moment.

To Greyson and those aligning, a man fortunate enough to wage a viable defense against the government should be vilified as a nuisance and public enemy simply because he hopes to maintain the integrity of his land — tacitly implying anyone without a fortune in their defense is a better citizen, because they would have no choice but to succumb to the whims of the State.

In fact, continuing her baffling oratory — incidentally evincing why the State just might favor the poor over the rich in their lack of fiduciary competency to fight the taxpayer-funded government — Greyson makes no bones about her ire over private citizen land ownership.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for anyone not able to obtain as lucrative a profession as Bennett is the unabashed joy the government finds in economic superiority which allows it to trample rights of ownership — as if having less in the bank somehow makes one’s land a commodity ripe for the plucking.

Worse, though, Greyson tacitly champions the stratification of wealth as an obstacle of the State — if you’re wealthy enough to afford it, government cannot possibly be as formidable a foe as would be the case for someone whose legal defense lacks monetary teeth.

But it isn’t differences in worth or income comprising the issue here.

Rather, that the State feels running roughshod over someone’s rights to property is perfectly defensible in any situation is a condemnation of government — its manipulation, its effects on procuring lucrative professions, and its ambitions writ large, regardless of the name typed on a piece of paper proving that land cannot be taken forcefully and without reasonable just cause.

Regardless of years of extenuating details surrounding the Lazy W and Bennett’s family property, that the State through the words of Greyson shamelessly flaunts its clout — and lack thereof, in the face of money — proves eminent domain the sham it always has been.

Whether or not the arguably most hated government stipulation in existence began as a means to ensure the public good matters not if its modern iteration amounts to theft at will — and particularly not so when the content of one’s wallet decides the route for projects like a water line.

Eminent domain exists because the right to own property threatens government at its most vulnerable point — control.

Without that, the State is little more than an entity fleshed out on paper wishing desperately you would just get out of its way.

Claire Bernish began writing as an independent, investigative journalist in 2015, with works published and republished around the world. Not one to hold back, Claire’s particular areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy, analysis of international affairs, and everything pertaining to transparency and thwarting censorship. To keep up with the latest uncensored news, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @Subversive_Pen.
  • Guy

    Balderdash ! But agree on many points too of the argument.

    Not always is the tool used by State & Local Districts to obtain the rights to use private property for the greater good necessarily a bad thing. No more than I can say, that just because the guy in this case has a fat wallet, enabling him to be able to fight the City in it trying to get access to his property for a water line, is one either.

    Hells Bells, we have had ranching property in our family since the 1880’s, and when our Country needed to widen the road for modern day access, because it use to be only wide enough for two horse drawn wagon loads of grain to pass each other going opposite directions. They wanted to eminent domain it. We just gave them the frontage, not liking it much, but could see the need for it too. Plus it was to our benifet too.

    It sounds like this guy has been as stubborn as a mule, and about as single minded in his fight to keep his property, to the point of installing a cemetery on it, so they can’t. That tells me a lot about him, and not of it is all good.

    • Delphinus13

      It’s his private property and has been in his family for 60+ years. The city could have spend a few thousand to divert the water pipes around his property, but they’ve stubbornly decided to waste several years and missions of taxpayer dollars fighting to take this man’s private property involuntarily.

    • Dan Quixoté

      Shouldn’t the gub’mint get a comeuppance at least *once* in a while?

  • Robyn Ryan

    What if it was an oil pipeline? Water cannons? Tear gas?

  • Amor Terra

    No, lady. YOU cost the taxpayers millions of dollars by acting like thieving bullies. HOW ABOUT you set a proposed route, go out and actually ask to purchase land from a willing seller, for a fair price? Then, and only if, everyone around the area says no (extremely unlikely), do you steal their land by eminent domain?

    • Guy

      It’s a double edged sword for sure enough to create winners and losers, especially when City Politics get involved, and Eminent Domain Laws are used as a club to beat folks up. This lady Councel Member is clearly ticked off, and trying to browbeat the owner with her hottie tottie attitude, and failing miserably at it, comeing of as A Huge Jack Ass for her trouble !

      I have personally seen valuable agricultural land with a young cherry orchard on it get chopped in half, so it was done to benifet the developer next door, who was planning to put in a huge planned community. The Cherry Land property, was eminent domained for a water pipeline, that was to go through the middle of it for the Los Vaqueros Reservoir. Twenty Acres of prime orchard got whittled down to about 12 useable, as the result. The farmer got just *Fare Market Value* at the time, and Not the future value as he wanted, when it would have been more valuable, as a U-Pick Cherry Orchard in full production !

      The developer was a big taxpayer to the County, so they were more favorable to his suggestions of where to run the pipeline. Routing it so that it had the least impact on His Adjoining Property, and saving him millions in land development cost that he would have lost, had the pipeline gone in another direction, taking out his streets and future housing lot’s.

      • Amor Terra

        I had a client once who came in looking for help because the city was using eminent domain to take (for far less than the actual value) the auto garage that his grandfather had started, then his father took over, and finally, he took it over. A business of over 75 years–nearly since there had been cars. What incredible “public need” justified this dastardly thievery? A Walgreens pharmacy.

        • Guy

          Walgreens !? They can take them and the drugs, put em in a sack and heave em into the ocean and say *Good Riddance*!!!!!!

          Thats the trick these bottom dwelling cities and counties use, to take a person’s property on the cheap. If you want any more, it always winds up in a Court Battle, with them being like a thief saying “I’am Just Robbing You Blind For The Public Good.” Trust Us !!!! Lousy Turds ! What happened to the Auto Garage, did he take his business somewhere else and reopen his shop ?

          • Amor Terra

            He “sold” to the City and retired. And we got yet another Walgreens, as if the one a mile down the same thoroughfare wasn’t sufficient.

          • Guy

            Great Deal for the City. Two Walgreens to pay taxes to em, and provide drugs and potato chips to folks. Meanwhile they took out a 75 year old business that was providing a fair and honest service along with products to the people, that had become reliant on them in doing so. That seems a reasonable and fair exchange !

            Reminds me of the story that happend to my Mom, for her volunteer efforts in the help she did to bring a children’s wing to our City Of Brentwoods Library. That has now been destroyed, so the City can build a shiny, modern one in it place, at the tune of $14.000.000.00 taxpayers dollars, right alongside the $35.000.000.00 New City Hall, complete with multi-floor solar equipped parking garage, so that the dozen city staff cars have a place to park and our Mayor (The Duck) can have his new office. I’ll go into more detail later.

            Question; Do you get your mail at home or do you have a post office box ? Tomorrow is Tuesday. I would like to send you something that I think you would enjoy. This is not a shtick Amor (love earth :), just dried fruit, from CA. If you trust me good enough, if not, I understand that to, and no harm or foul is created or feelings hurt either way.

          • Amor Terra

            It is amazing how readily they spend other people’s money…

            I get home delivery of mail–at least when our slightly crazy rural mail carrier feels like delivering it. Are you on facebook? I’m the same name on there and you could PM me for the address.

          • Guy

            Yep, I’ll try, but really an old dinosaur with the system, so who knows what will happen. just did, there are hundreds of Amors, so maybe a little help is needed. By the way, I couldn’t find you on facebook, but if you want to add me on there, I’m at https://www.facebook.com/guy.kelley.3

  • John C Carleton

    This is why there has to be common law courts brought back so the common man, even if he is not rich, can fight corporations for profit, like the “City of Dallas”.

    “Should the Common Man be Forced to Submit to the Elites Corporate, Administrativetive law’
    http://www.johnccarleton.org/BLOGGER/2017/04/21/should-the-common-man-be-forced-to-submit-to-the-elites-corporate-administrative-law/

  • Lawrence Pearson

    She was so cute . It makes her angry that the wealthy can push people around . DUH . ( Standing Rock ) . Dallas Rules ! Your money is her money your property is her property . She owns your thoughts and hopes , she controls your dreams . Or she gets infuriated

  • Ben Deakin

    I wonder if this woman has actually listened to her little speach. Is it just me or does she sound crazy in what she is saying.a poor person comes down and says please dont take my property and we take there property. WOW

  • Not pro Israel

    She should step up and put the thing through her neighborhood and her yard.

  • billdeserthills

    Gonna be too funny when the city winds up losing and paying all court costs for both parties

  • Madmotorman™ ® The Mad Hatter

    Never tell the government they can’t, they’ll use all the taxpayers money at their disposal to say they’re right.

  • palvadore

    I’m a surprised the police haven’t planted drugs on his land. Isn’t that the American way?

  • Joseph Porath

    with or without money if someone told me i had to give up something i own that would be their fatal mistake

  • ReverendMotherOBG

    She clearly stated the answer in her rant. Go around. Pretty sure the city wants to cut up his ranch, for some reason. Probably development. Pity more ranchers don’t have enough money to slap this unconstitutional overreach down…
    Next they’ll probably triple his property taxes.

  • ♓Ξ▲ѴƳ Ƙ∆RM∆~Ð∈ßϯ SᏝ▲V∈

    This is all part of the UNESCO Treaty UN Agenda-21/Updated Agenda-21 Year 2030 2.0!
    If “sustainable development” is implemented, private ownership of property will be done away with and rural areas will be off limits to all of us. Our government is not acting in our best interest, the beast system is rigged against us “little people” with no means to fight for our freedom and rights!