City to Discuss What to Do After State Supremes Razed the Reason for Tearing Down House

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Behind closed doors this afternoon, the back-to-work Dallas City Council will be briefed by city attorneys on a handful of lawsuits, all of which we're quite familiar with: City of Dallas v. Museum of the American Railroad (which, last we looked, is close to being settled); Marcus Wood, et al. v. Deborah Watkins, City Secretary, City of Dallas, involving efforts to overturn the November referendum allowing for the citywide sale of beer and wine; and Heather Stewart v. City of Dallas, which has to do with a torn-down house and the Texas Supreme Court's ruling that the city owes the owner $75,000.

That last one got some TV attention last night thanks to KXAS-Channel 5's Ken Kalthoff, who visited with eminent-domain attorney Julia Pendery and council member Tennell Atkins -- and Gladys Callado, a next-door neighbor, who says the bulldozers showed up after Stewart had begun giving the house a mandated makeover. Atkins, for one, worries that the majority ruling -- which says, in short, that the city can't wrecking-ball a house till it goes before a judge, not a board of appointees -- will delay razing eyesores and health-and-safety nuisances: "I bet the community will say, 'We have a house sitting there for five years. Now it's going to take 10 years.' What do we do now?'"

Kalthoff, whose account follows, ran into the same problem we did: City attorneys didn't want to talk about the case till it went before council. Perhaps later today they'll say something. But last time city attorneys tried to rewrite ordinances involving blighted structures, it wasn't easy -- only took a couple of years to settle the matter.

View more videos at: http://nbcdfw.com.

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4 comments
Julius Staev
Julius Staev

I am the attorney for Heather Stewart, and just wanted to take a minute make a couple of comments.  In reading the blogs from the prior article I appreciate the various viewpoints.  I think it is important to note two things.  First, the Supreme Court decision does not make new law, but in fact simply confirms what has always been the law for hundreds of years -- and that is that a government related body cannot administratively demolish and take away someone's real property without there being independent review and protection under the Texas Constitution.  Which review should also be by a real court, with a right to a jury and a full evidentiary trial, and ultimately with a right to appeal to the Court of Appeals.  Second, some people are incorrectly stating that now a city has to first file a lawsuit and get a judicial determination "before" being able to demolish someone's home.  This is not true.  The city has always had the option, if it chooses, to first demolish someone's home without seeking a judicial determination (and the Stewart decision reaffirms that), but then face a "possible" suit later if the owner feels the house was not "in fact" a nuisance. The City of Dallas' position that it's board (or now the Municipal Court) can take the place of a District Court and full trial is a power grab and has never been the law!  Julius S. Staev.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Thanks for chiming in. And I've corrected the item concerning Julia Pendery's affiliation with the case. 

replay
replay

It's called "due process (under the law)" and it prevents thugs from reducing the Republic to anarchy.

johan
johan

I live really close to 6017 Hudson, which is located in East Dallas not far from Live Oak. The house had been abandoned for years, but even in it's deteriorating state was completely worth saving. It was a brick Tudor much like what is found on the M Streets. I'm glad the owner got a bit of money --- especially if she was indeed making improvements on the property. But it sounds like she just could have been a bit quicker about making those improvements thereby keeping city code enforcement off her back .

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