Days After State Rep. Johnson Weighs In, DISD May Be Backing Off Jubilee Park Land Grab

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Daniel Rodrigue
Jubilee Park residents protest DISD's eminent domain suits outside 3700 Ross Ave. earlier this year.
Earlier this week, Robert wrote about state Rep. Eric Johnson's October 28 letter to Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, in which Johnson wondered whether the district had exhausted all its options for building a new O.M. Roberts Elementary. Johnson also wondered, by the way, whether the DISD wouldn't also mind sharing those plans with the folks who stand to be bought out of -- which is to say, run out of -- their houses.

DISD's already backed off Pat Berry's Vickery Greenhouse and four other homes, and now that Jonhson has weighed in, it sounds as though the district is rethinking its designs on the five remaining properties.

Mark Mathie, the homeowners' attorney, sends word today that while he's hasn't gotten DISD's formal confirmation yet, word from Johnson's office is there will be no reply to the letter. Instead, Mathie says, the district is going to drop its remaining eminent domain suits against his clients.

Mathie says he received an e-mail yesterday afternoon letting him know that DISD trustee Bernadette Nutall had told Johnson's office the district was drafting a letter to each of the homeowners. "At this point," Mathie says, "we are waiting to hear from DISD. If, in fact, that's what DISD is doing, it looks like the matter is resolved." We've left messages for DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander and with Johnson's office, and will update when we hear more.

"I am exrtemely appreciative of Rep. Johnson's support, and I do consider it a game-changer," Mathie tells us. "What I expected was that we had the equitable high ground, and all it was going to take was somebody in a position of authority to see the facts and that they would agree with my clients that DISD had not treated them fairly."

Mathie says the neighbors' two-pronged approach -- "agitation and litigation" -- seems to have paid off especially well for them this time. "You don't usually get this kind of victory against DISD or any other government entity that want to take the property," Mathie says. "This, to me, is really something special."

Update at 4:58: We just reached Johnson's chief of staff Juan Ayala, who confirms: Nutall did indeed call him to let Johnson's office know DISD was in the process of drawing up that letter to those five homeowners. "She said that DISD was not moving forward with eminent domain for the houses we wrote a letter on," Ayala says, adding that Johnson's office will keep watching to see how the district follows through. "We're waiting to see what's actually in the letter," he says.

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