Goliad County to seek counsel regarding condemned airpark

Feb. 17, 2011 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 16, 2011 at 8:17 p.m.

GOLIAD - The Goliad County Commissioners Court voted at a special meeting Thursday to seek legal counsel in response to the U.S. Navy's plans to condemn the Goliad Industrial Airpark.

Several members of the Goliad Airpark Coalition were disappointed in the court's decision, having asked the court to delay taking any action until the coalition could seek a second legal opinion of its own.

The Navy filed a Declaration of Taking on Feb. 11, that announced its intent to acquire the 1,136 acres through eminent domain and with a price tag of $2.36 million.

After receiving the notice from the Navy, the county has 20 days to contend the declaration, according to the papers filed in Victoria's Federal District Court.

County Judge David Bowman said he's yet to receive the filings from the Navy.

Before the court voted, Coalition Chair Serena Edwards assured the court the delay the coalition requested would not interfere with the county's ability to respond to the Navy in time.

"Prior to the end of the allowable response period, we will provide this court with an action plan that we believe will be in the best interests of all citizens of Goliad County," she said.

A full courtroom heard from four residents asking the commissioners court to delay action and none supporting the Navy's acquisition.

After half an hour in closed session, the court made its decision.

"While I certainly sympathize with the airpark coalition, and I do agree with them and I feel for them, we are simply left no choice," commissioner Ted Long said via teleconference. "We have got to find a law firm and ultimately an appraisal firm to get as many dollars for this property as we can."

Long, Bowman and Commissioner Alonzo Morales voted to seek legal counsel. Commissioner Julian Flores voted against the motion, and Commissioner Jim Kreneck was not present.

The Goliad Airpark Coalition had already been working with attorney R. Gaines Griffin, of San Antonio.

The court has repeatedly voted in the past not to sell to the Navy.

"Our efforts have helped delay the Navy's onslaught, but the specter of condemnation is now real and we must face it, armed with the knowledge that our stand on this issue is right," Edwards said.

The coalition was hoping to get the county on board with them about filing an injunction against the Navy, citing the precedence set by a U.S. Supreme Court case Dalton v. Specter. The county would need to file the case, but legal expenses would have been privately funded by the coalition.

That 1994 Supreme Court case 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.

Edwards said she's concerned the condemnation of a base already closed by BRAC would set a precedence across the nation.

"(It's) an act that defies the will of the people of Goliad County and probably places closed military installations in other locations in extreme jeopardy of also being forcibly re-acquired by the military," Edwards said.

Bowman said the coalition is free to pursue legal ventures on its own and focused on what was actually decided in the meeting.

"We haven't made a decision other than to get a law firm," he said. "We think (the Navy's) offer is under-valued."

James Johnson, a member of the coalition, said the county had made it clear in previous court sessions it didn't intend to fight the Navyand that he believes future court actions will revolve around negotiating with the Navy for a fair price.

"If it came to a condemnation suit, I knew the county would go to negotiating," he said.

The Goliad Airpark Coalition isn't done yet, though.

"We will be meeting ASAP to decide if we want to go forward with the (National Environmental Policy Act) suit," said member Steve Lott.

The coalition in December discussed filing that suit, arguing the Navy did not conduct an environmental impact statement as it should have.



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