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Goliad County files objections to Navy's condemnation suit

By KBell
April 15, 2011 at 6 p.m.
Updated April 15, 2011 at 11:16 p.m.


A HISTORY

1991: BRAC closed the Naval Air Station in rural Goliad County.

2000: Navy sold the property to Goliad County for $1.

September 2008: Goliad County voted to offer property to Navy for $675,000 and later withdrew the offer.

November 2009: The city of Corpus Christi offers to buy the airpark.

December 2009: Navy completed its environmental assessment.

April 2010: Navy offered to purchase airpark from county for $2.36 million after an appraisal.

September 2010: Navy made final offer to purchase the property, which the county let expire.

November 2010: Navy announced its intent to acquire the airpark through eminent domain.

Feb. 11, 2011: Navy files Declaration of Taking to condemn airpark.

Feb. 28, 2011: Commissioners Court votes to retain the Austin law firm Barron & Adler to represent county in dealings with Navy.

Goliad County filed an objection on Tuesday to the U.S. Navy's condemnation suit that would turn over the Goliad Industrial Airpark to the government through eminent domain.

In its objection, the county responded to each of the claims made by the Navy in its Declaration of Taking filed Feb. 11 in federal court.

The Navy wants to purchase the former military landing field so pilots can practice touch and go landings as well as other training maneuvers, but the county and Navy could not reach an agreement for the purchase.

Homeowners near the strip in rural Goliad County also objected to the Navy owning the land.

Among other things, the county contends the Navy failed to meet all the conditions required to file a condemnation suit, overstepped its powers and that the condemnation is unconstitutional.

The five-page document filed by the county's attorney at Barron & Adler law firm offers few details of the county's argument and doesn't elaborate on the objections.

"I'm assuming that once this goes to court, the specificity of (the issues) will be discussed at that point," County Judge David Bowman said Friday.

Bowman said both parties will meet for a scheduling conference in June.

The filing also mentions the 1994 U.S. Supreme Court case Dalton v. Spector, which held that an executive order to shut down a naval base is not subject to judicial review.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission, a process of the U.S. government, closed the airfield in 1991.

The Goliad Airpark Coalition, a group of citizens opposed to the Navy takeover, had encouraged the county to fight the Navy on the premise of that case.

"I am happy the county authorities have followed through on their commitment to respond to the Navy's notice of taking," chair of the coalition, Serena Edwards, said. "However, the coalition would have preferred a motion to dismiss the case."

The Navy filed an Order of Possession on March 10, which transferred the title of the land to the United States after 30 days, according to court documents. That motion, granted the next day, gave the Navy the right to begin projects on the property, which it hopes to have operational by 2012.

The county did not oppose the motion.

Bowman said the Navy put their locks on the property Monday, and the county and Navy have had a good working relationship when it comes to both parties being allowed access to the airpark.

The county also filed a request for a jury to hear its case for denying condemnation, or alternatively, address the issue of adequate compensation.

The Navy deposited in the registry of the federal court $2.36 million, based on appraisals for the airpark.

Goliad County retained the law firm on a contingency contract, which tiers payment based on how much money the county can collect beyond the $2.36 million, should the property be condemned.

The Navy did not return requests for comment.

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