Friday, March 07, 2008

Eminent Domain or Highway Robbery

There’s an interesting article tucked away in the local section of the Houston Chronicle, also on their website if you dig a little and use the search engine provided; otherwise you’d never know it was even there. Brothers say City Hall trying to pull a fast one

“The brothers are challenging the city's action in court, arguing that the park is a pretext for the city's true purpose: to assist a prominent local developer who has amassed most of the property around theirs for a 21-acre mixed-use development known as BLVD Place.”

I read through the article and found “the meat” boiled down in just a few sentences:

"August 1982: James and Jock Collins pay $363,750 for property at San Felipe and Post Oak Lane as an investment for their retirement.

• February 2004: The Uptown Houston District offers the Collins brothers $398,035 for their property to widen San Felipe and for unspecified other purposes. They decline the offer.

• April 2004: Wulfe & Co. begins negotiations with the Collins brothers to buy the property.

• February 2005: Wulfe & Co. announces plans to redevelop property near San Felipe and Post Oak. The BLVD Place development will cover 21 acres with office space, retail, high-rise residential units and a hotel.

• July 2006: Wulfe & Co. offers $1.4 million for the Collins brothers' property. The brothers decline based on the proposed payment schedule. The company says it will make no further offers.

• October 2006: The city of Houston informs the Collins brothers that it intends to acquire their property for a pocket park.

• May 2007: City offers the brothers $433,800 for the property. They decline.

• November 2007: City files suit to acquire the property through eminent domain.

• Feb. 25: The brothers file a legal challenge to the eminent domain proceeding, arguing that the compensation offered is insufficient and that the city is taking the land for the benefit of Wulfe & Co. rather than the public."

Somewhere between 1982 the property was valued at a little over $350k and purchased, in 2006 they were offered $1.4 million; but declined that offer. Now the City of Houston thinks that same property should sell for just over $400k; is that about the way you see it? My guess would put the value at nothing less than $1.5 million and maybe as high as a three million since there is a specific improvement in the works which pretty much requires that piece of land. Maybe there is a skunk in the deal, something sure smells to high heaven.

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