Fort Worth, Baptist church anticipate eminent domain hearing on church land 

dfwnewsa | December 23, 2023 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Fort Worth, Baptist church anticipate eminent domain hearing on church land 

Fort Worth City Council adopted a resolution in June 2023 to authorize the process to seize land owned by North Fort Worth Baptist Church for the Cantrell Sansom Road Widening Project. Both parties are still undergoing negotiations to connect the church to the city’s sewer lines. (Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report)
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Attorneys for the city of Fort Worth and North Fort Worth Baptist Church are planning for a tentative hearing in February about acquiring land owned by the church for a nearby road widening project. 

The hearing is the next step for the city to use eminent domain, which gives the government authority to seize private property for public use.

The hearing is part of a formal process called condemnation, which is the procedure for using eminent domain. Fort Worth City Council members adopted a resolution in June to seize land owned by North Fort Worth Baptist Church to widen Cantrell Sansom Road. 

The city declared previous negotiations between the city and church “unsuccessful due to the inability to negotiate agreeable terms for the property interest being acquired by the city,” according to the resolution which passed unanimously in June. 

The decision came after years of negotiations between the church and the city, said David White, the education and administration pastor for the church. White’s main concern in June was the potential impacts nearby road construction may have on the church’s septic system. 

“We’re still trying to get cost estimates on how much work is involved, how much cost is involved in getting some things resolved,” White said. “The city is being patient at this point. … It’s just taking time to get engineers and companies out here to give us some price estimates.” 

The city is waiting to hear back on what the cost would be to extend the church’s private utility line to the city’s public sewer lines, said Ricardo Salazar II, interim director of Fort Worth’s Property Management Department. 

“We’ve looked at different cost estimates for the sewer for the septic tank multiple times, and none of which we can agree on,” Salazar said. “So now we’ve shifted to having to redesign a lot of the project to accommodate for the sewer line within the road expansion.”  

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A hearing for condemnations provides the property owners an opportunity to appear before a board of commissioners or “viewers” who have been appointed by a district or county court, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s Real Estate Acquisition Guide For Local Public Agencies. 

The hearing, scheduled for Feb. 6, will allow attorneys from both the city and the church to share their sides of the acquisition, why the land is needed and who will be impacted, Salazar said. 

“There’s more of the legality of the hearing. But what we’re hoping for is not having to get to that point,” Salazar said. 

The hearing will not have to occur if the city and the church come to an agreement before the scheduled date, Salazar said. Another option is that if the city and church feel that they’re getting close to an agreement, the hearing could be delayed, he said. 

White said he’s hopeful that the church and city will come to an agreement before then.

The road widening project is “going to be a benefit to the church as well because traffic can come down the frontage road and when this new street connects to the frontage road, people can use it to access the church,” White said. “So it’s a win-win. It’s just taking time to get all the details resolved.” 

Marissa Greene is a Report for America corps member, covering faith for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at marissa.greene@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter @marissaygreene. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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