Dallas Officials Deny They Threatened Car Wash Owner. What Do You Think?

Categories: Schutze

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English Mafia Club
So you tell me: When City Hall came calling on the Davenports, would you say it looked jolly?
Hey, I have a reader challenge for you. I need your take on something. A week ago I told you the city sent a letter to the owner of a car wash on MLK telling him it was planning a project and his property "will be needed for the project."

I said it was an "eminent domain" letter officially notifying him that a process was under way by which he might wind up being forced to sell whether he wanted to or not. Eminent domain is the power of a government to buy your property even if you don't want to sell. It's also called "condemnation."

I don't know how much of the aftermath you followed. Some of it was pretty hilarious, as long as you weren't Freddy or Dale Davenport, the father and son who own the car wash. The mayor and the City Council person for that district and the city manager and just about everybody else at City Hall pointed fingers at each other and said somebody else sent the letter. Nobody could even say what the so-called project was.

So I made an accusation. I said the letter was a bogus severed horse-head under the sheets kind of a mafia threat to scare the Davenports into selling, maybe to some private party with a cheap price in mind. And I issued a challenge. If that was not the case, then somebody at City Hall just say who green-lighted it. Tell us who was behind it. At least name the project. Clear the air.

That was a few days ago. Since then, I have picked up some pretty good straws in the wind telling me how City Hall hopes to spin this. Somebody is already telling people, in fact, that there was no eminent domain letter at all. Schutze made all that up. All there was was a letter asking the guy in a perfectly friendly manner if the city could do a special appraisal of his property just to see if maybe the city might want to offer him a price for it someday later on.

They will say there was no mention of eminent domain. It was an innocent inquiry. Schutze made all that stuff up to get a headline.

Reminds me of a scene in an old W.C. Fields movie where a lady bats the comedian with her umbrella after he touches her inappropriately. He mumbles, "I was just tryin' to guess yer weight."

Anyway, once I figured out this would be City Hall's line on the deal, I asked Dale Davenport to give me the full mailing the city sent him. He did. I am presenting all of it here, everything he found in the envelope. I am asking you to look at it.

And I want you to tell me: If you were the property owner here, and if you received this mailing, would you take it as a friendly request and nothing you had to worry about or even answer if you didn't feel like it? Or would you be concerned that it might be the beginning of an eminent domain process?

Please bear this in mind. The letter is signed by Lou Jones, a city real estate manager. The day after Dale Davenport got it, he went to Lou Jones' office with the letter in hand and asked her if this was a process that could end in eminent domain. He says she said yes.

I also called Lou Jones myself and asked her the same thing. She gave me the same answer.

So please scan this stuff and then you tell me: does this look to you like a holiday greeting card?

Freddy Davenport Letter from city of Dallas regarding property acquisition at 2702 Martin Luther King, Jr.... by Schutze


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46 comments
kfries1
kfries1

Don't give up the property without getting an autographed picture of a water taxi.

ryan762
ryan762

Here's my question. What do the letters that are sent to property owners who are being bought out for specific projects say? Are they any different? In what way are they different (if they are... and I kind of imagine they aren't)?

Gangy
Gangy

Someone was theorizing to me that this property might be coveted for the preparations for the bid on the Olympics.  It's located at the gateway to Fair Park, next to major freeways, the DART rail, and downtown.  The curious horsepark, the obscene championship golf course, the soccer fields by the gas compressor plant, and the Omni hotel all might make more sense if you needed them for the Olympics.  Of course, that's assuming you think Dallas should spend it's money on that rather than libraries, health clinics, street repairs, water line updating, industrial safety inspectors, senior services, mental health care, etc. 

bruce.levy1
bruce.levy1

Hey, Jim:  If the city was smart it would have just told you that Mike Miles was behind this.  Then you would have happily endorsed the plan!  :)


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Maybe I should have said more about why I was asking. First, the pushback I already have received from City Hall, from Lou Jones to more exalted ranks, has been that "There was no condemnation notice. The letter did not use the words 'eminent domain.'" Also I am aware a law enforcement agency that expressed interest in this matter was told by City Hall that there was no condemnation letter. So, thanks extremely much for the reality check here.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Again, the city that works, for a select few anyway.

Utter scum.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

Dallas could at least send a sample size tube of Vaseline with their letters

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Acquiring Property Through Eminent Domain


When property owners refuse to sell their land to the city, the city can bring a lawsuit against them. This kind of court case is known as an eminent domain proceeding. The property owner can force the city to prove it has a compelling reason to take that particular property for that particular purpose.


So what's the compelling reason?

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

The included brochure explicitly mentions eminent domain under the first question. Not sure where the confusion is here.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The City is attempting to force a sale under threat of eminent domain.


They don't want to pay "Holdout Value"  which has nothing to do with Fair Market Value since the guy doesn't want to sell.  Holdouts are pretty common in the private sector so the developer has to pony up two or three or five times what the property is worth on the open market in order to assemble all the tracts needed for the proposed development.


The City doesn't want to pay Holdout Value, so they rattle the condemnation sabre.


But they forgot one thing.  


"What's the project number, Kenneth?"


They forgot to say why they "need" it?  There has to be a developed Public Need.  What is it?


Or are they buying it and then cook up a plan for the Council?


This is where they are exposed.  What is the compelling Public Need for this land?


I bet the drafting ink is flying as we speak.  They have to come up with a reason more substantial than in one mind's eye.



WylieH
WylieH

"Plans have proceeded to the point that we wish to advise you that your property, described above, will be needed for the project."--- so either:


A)  Lou Jones is lying, because there is no project.


B)  There is a secret project, but City staff has failed to obtain approval for it from City Council, as required.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Looks like a BOHICA letter to me.

halldecker
halldecker

Naah,   this wasn't the Official Dallas We're Gonna Take Your Land Letter:

second para,  the comma after 'City of Dallas',    

a 'request from an environmental firm',  (what kind, monitoring,  inspection,  to confirm it's a great place for a neighborhood lead smelter???)

Little things,  but very important,   would have  been corrected by somebody before being used in a boiler-plate letter.

Or,  they could all be DISD graduates.

James080
James080 topcommenter

"Plans have progressed to the point...that your property...will be needed for the project."


I have a few questions:

What plans?

What project?

How many other MLK owners received the same letter?


I believe a FOI request is in order, or possibly a subpoena of Ms. Jones. Pre-litigation depositions are rare, but can be granted.


Maybe it's time for Mr. Davenport to ask the Texas Attorney General to look into this matter. The AG is running for higher office, I would think that fighting for a land owner against a corrupt city government trying to take his land without legal justification would make a nice anecdote for his campaign.

kayo
kayo

..."does this look to you like a holiday greeting card?"


Only if it was sent by the Kremlin.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

It reads as a demand letter to me too. I used to think that the New Orleans city government was corrupt. I now wonder if there is a big city government that is not corrupt.

pak152
pak152

"your property...will be needed for the project." pretty plain to me that eminent domain proceedings will take place

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The cover letter she sent may be the one they send to property owners when they do not have condemnation power.  


The attachments are the ones that are attached to letters informing the property owner THEY DO have the power of condemnation, and that's what they intend to do.  That's why the word "condemnation" is used all over those attachments.


The attachments describe the condemnation process, your rights and remedies, and even your "bill of property rights" (ha!) in this action however, the bottom line is the property WILL be owned by the condemnor.  You can argue about "Just Compensation" later, if you like.


Then she (Lou) subsequently clarifies the nature and intent of the action, not only to the property owner when he asked for clarification but to the press.


Quack Quack.  Looks like a duck, walks like one.  Quacks like one.


It looks like Lou baby tried to run a quick play to intimidate the property owner to just pony up the property because they had not gone through the part of the condemnation process preceding notification of the owner.


That's the part where you have to go through city council action, they vote on it, obtain public funds for the proposed use, issue a project number on the proposed development for the public good, draw up the engineering and design plans, issue RFPs to appraisers to estimate the Market Value of the properties to be taken, then officially notify the owner of the property to be condemned.


Then you get the attachments letting you know how this thing IS GOING to go down.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Well he did buy the property as an investment for his retirement .

Looks like the lawsuit  is going to pay off for him  big time .



russell.allison1
russell.allison1

Am I wrong that an attorney living in the city of Dallas could make a decent living doing nothing more than bringing lawsuits against the city of Dallas?

finley5
finley5

Yeah, I interpret the letter as, we want and need your property, so we are taking it, but here are your rights regarding how this will go down, so get ready. 


I would sue the living shit out of COD if they tried to pull this shit with me. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

the phrase in the letter "your property...will be needed for the project" answers your question.

has anyone at the city made an offer to Davenport in the past? or is this letter the first  time the city has discussed with Davenport buying the property?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Yeah, that's a demand letter.  It doesn't say "may be needed", it says "will be needed."  Nothing in the attachments suggests in any way that the state will be backing out -- they are all presented as a fait accomplai.


If our DA wasn't a total political shill, we might have a chance of cleaning this up properly, but all we will get instead is coverup.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@ryan762


They are the same.  The City begins with an offer to purchase at "fair market Value".  This offer is required.

It is the sequence all public entities who possess the power of eminent domain, or condemnation, begin with.  

after they have demonstrated a developed Public Need for the land.

However, it is the attachments which clearly set forth a chain of events leading to a condemnation lawsuit which constitute the "threat" the City now lamely denies.

Google "under threat of eminent domain" or "under threat of condemnation".  

This terminology is common in the modern lexicon because it accurately describes what it is - a threat.

Send this letter and its attachments to the first 3,000 property owners in the local telephone book and see what kind of reaction you get.

To assert this offer to purchase was NOT made "under threat of eminent domain" if laughable on the face of it.

The problem is the Real Estate Department cannot articulate, much less demonstrate, the reason why they sent the letter in the first place.

Which causes suspicion to arise that there is a back channel at City Hall.

It is now in the Public Interest to fully understand what channel was taken and by whom, which motivated this action.

Precisely, how did this happen?

And it really does matter:

"The conduct of our Nation's affairs always demands that public servants discharge their duties under the Constitution and laws of this Republic with fairness and a proper spirit of subservience  to the people whom they are sworn to serve.  Public servants cannot be arbitrarily selective in their treatment of citizens, dispensing  equity to those who please them and withholding it from those who do not.  Respect for the law can only be fostered if citizens believe that those responsible for implementing and enforcing the law are themselves acting in conformity with the law." -- William F. Downes, United States District Judge - Carol Ward v. United States 79 AFTR2d Par. 97-964 No. 95-WY-810-WD  (2 Jun 1997).

So NO!  We cannot just let this go.



JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

I don't know why the law enforcement agency was asking. Seems conceivable to me that ginning up a fake eminent domain letter to help your cousin get a good price out of somebody is tantamount to having your cousin the cop do a fake arrest to get somebody to pay you back for the chainsaw they lost. But I ain't no deputy.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

If Dallas is the city that works, it would seem our primary objective should be to discover how to make it stop doing so.

James080
James080 topcommenter

Maybe Maxine Thorton-Reece has convinced Carolyn Davis to start another City of Dallas "land bank."

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@WylieH


The City of Hurst agreed to let its largest taxpayer, a real estate company, expand its North East Mall and thus increase the City’s sales and property tax revenues. 


There happened to be 127 homes in the way, but that wasn’t a problem. The City agreed to condemn the homes if the owners did not sell. Under the threat of eminent domain, almost all of the homeowners sold their property. Ten condemnees refused to sell and took the City to court.


The Lopez, Duval, Prohs and Laue families had each owned their homes for approximately 30 years. Some of the other families had been there for more than a decade.


A Texas trial judge refused to stay the condemnations while the suit was ongoing, so the residents lost their homes.


Of the ten couples who challenged the City, three spouses died and four others suffered heart attacks during the dispute and litigation.


snip!


There is not even a stated reason for this threat of condemnation.  


So it's probably payback from a politician for not tithing.


If this excuse doesn't work 5 will get you 10 the City will go the "blight" designation route.

ryan762
ryan762

The AG only very reluctantly appointed a special prosecutor to go after a judge who committed felonies in pursuit of protecting a serial killer from prosecution. I don't think the AG cares about going after anybody. It gets in the way of his suing the Obama Administration activity.

WylieH
WylieH

And...no doubt, the City will fight compliance with the information release-- part of their typical strategy of dealing with interlopers:  confuse, befuddle, stall, drive up legal bills, etc.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@James080 Where are the water colors displaying the faceless people enjoying the future features of  plaza Or the flyover GCI and funky music ?


HeywoodUBuzzoff
HeywoodUBuzzoff

Well, folks the City does need space for the Al Libscombe 'walking around money' center for the Study of John W. Price and the Ron Kirk Institute of Getting the Hell out of Dallas.  What better place to wash money through the hands of contractors friendly to the City Council than a car wash.

WylieH
WylieH

You're absolutely right, Watkins won't do anything about this.

ryan762
ryan762

Well, that's the thing then, if the city is saying this isn't an "eminent domain" letter, then it would have to be different than the letters they send for properties that are acquired for specific projects in the past. And if this letter is not different (and like you said, I'm pretty sure it isn't any different), then this is an eminent domain threat letter.

So they need to cough up the truth on what's behind this, though I suspect that instead of doing that, someone at the city will hire a consultant to prepare a report that will exonerate everyone because everyone is very sorry about the whole thing.

WylieH
WylieH

Take a look at Title 8, Chapter 39 of the state penal code relating to abuses of public authority:

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.39.htm

Although Watkins would be too scared to ever take this on, I could see the state Attorney General possibly taking this on--- it would make great press in connection with Abbott's political ambition.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

the Hurst facts have little to do with this situation. those properties abutted an active retail corridor, and the law has been changed 2x over the 15 years since Hurst used condemnation.

in fact, it is due to cases such as Hurst the law was changed prohibiting ED use under similar circumstances.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@WylieH

not being eager to defend watkins, yet what law has the city run afoul? perhaps a civil action if davenport desires to pursue. criminal at this point? no.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@ryan762

It would be simple matter to clear up the "misunderstanding".

Re-issue the non-binding letter of intent to purchase Mr. Davenport's property with the clear statement that "your property is not now or in the future a candidate for condemnation and we would not initiate such a proceeding if it was."

Or, the City, in a show of good faith, could also sign an affidavit to be filed for record at the Dallas County Courthouse.

All authorities who possess the power of eminent domain and offer to purchase properties within their jurisdiction carry with that offer . . . the threat of eminent domain.  The only way to remove that threat is to remove the option, in plain language, in the offer. 

Besides.  It is radioactive now and any attempt to conduct a public taking after this fiasco would be . . . problematic to say the least.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@WylieH

exactly how do you see that Jones violated this code?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog @holmantx


Mr. Schutze asked what we thought about the City's denial they made a threat of condemnation (see headline at the top).

Hurst offered to purchase the subdivision "under threat of eminent domain".  Most complied.  Those who didn't, their property was taken.  

I am not arguing that the circumstances are similar.  I AM pointing out that the THREAT was clearly made at the time of the offer, which is precisely what the City of Dallas is doing.  They are offering to purchase under threat of condemnation (see attachments).

The difference in the Hurst case is that they were up front about the reason.  And the reason was well developed and public.  In this case, there appears to be no compelling reason, or it must be a secret.

And the only reason I can think of is some politician put pressure on the staff.  

markzero
markzero

@WylieH Jim also said in a previous article that the cops were out there parking in the way and telling the customers to leave and not wash their cars there. That also sounds like official oppression, though I don't remember if he said it was recently or years ago. 


If it was recently he needs to be asking the Chief who sent them out there to do that and why (and if he didn't, who's really in charge of his cops)?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@WylieH

the davenports enjoy full use of their property, at this point in time the city has not interfered with that right.

the question of legal basis is what this is all about, under what directive did Jones compose and send this letter?

if you say the davenport's ability to sell the property has been harmed by this letter, two thoughts: 1, to be valid the davenports are saying they are willing to sell, it's just the price, and 2) showing harmed value is not easy. there are re investors focusing on properties in the path of a taking, it's a very profitable segment. why? those willing to litigate were paid the highest FMV. generally owners aren't financially screwed by a taking, it's just inconvenient.

the value of their business would be included in the compensation. as long as the davenports can show their income, reaching a value is easy. if the davenports didn't keep a good accounting of their income (carwash  operator? that never happens...) they wouldnot get what they should.

WylieH
WylieH

Sec. 39.03(a)(2) --- an act of official oppression by interfering with the Davenports' enjoyment of their property rights without any legal basis. The mere act of sending the letter makes it impossible for the Davenports to sell the property for fair market value. Jones could be subject to criminal prosecution and the Davenports could bring an action for the diminution in market value caused by Jones.

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