Landowners awarded $3M in eminent domain cases

More than $3 million was awarded to four Blanco County landowners involved in condemnation proceedings with Kinder Morgan and its Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) over the past two weeks.

Those decisions, made by a court-appointed panel, is leading officials with the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense (TREAD) coalition to double-down on allegations Kinder Morgan is “lowballing” landowners for use of their land.

According to a TREAD press release, the panel awarded settlements to owners of the Campbell Ranch, Neill Ranch and Gloore Ranch in Blanco County; the largest of the three awards was set at $1.3 million.

TREAD officials said none of Kinder Morgan’s appraisals for either of the three properties exceeded $21,000. In one instance, TREAD officials estimated the panel’s award to one property owner was 81 times the amount Kinder Morgan had appraised their land.

Chris Oddo, an attorney for owners of the three ranches, said commissioners were considering the impact of the 42-inch, 430 mile pipeline could have on the Hill Country. Oddo said the “substantial consequences” of the pipeline are reflected in the panel’s decision.

Kinder Morgan’s PHP is a $2 billion project that extends from far west Texas to the Houston area with the pipeline cutting through the Hill Country, including Hays, Blanco and Caldwell counties. Kinder Morgan officials estimate the pipeline will be operational by the 4th quarter 2020.

“The commissioners were laser-focused on the facts and circumstances of each case,” said Oddo.

Decisions on the Campbell, Neill and Gloore ranches comes after a three-party panel awarded Blanco County landowner Matt Walsh $233,500 in damages for Kinder Morgan’s use of his land. The panel’s award was 11-times higher than Kinder Morgan’s $16,000 initial appraisal.

According to TREAD, a condemner can petition a court to appoint a three-member panel of real estate professionals if a landowner and a pipeline company cannot agree on eminent domain negotiations. The panel considers the case and delivers an award, based on information from both parties.

However, TREAD officials said Kinder Morgan’s appraiser was not present at two of the four hearings to defend the company’s assessment.

Patrick Reznick, an attorney representing Walsh, alleges Kinder Morgan only wants to compensate landowners for part of the land impacted by the 120-foot easement, but does not account for a possible “20-40 percent devaluation (of property) caused by the pipeline.

“Their appraisal formula is inherently flawed,” Reznick said.

Elyse Yates, spokesperson for TREAD, said landowners have been “trying for months” to help Kinder Morgan “understand the unique challenges” of the PHP in the Hill Country and defending their rights as property owners.

“They won’t be intimidated by this company’s tactics,” Yates said. “TREAD will be there every step of the way.”

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