DISD's Official Comment About Land Grab in Jubilee Park Isn't Much of One

Well, we finally heard back from Dallas Independent School District on its plans to force Jubilee Park residents and Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse off their land to make way for a new O.M. Roberts Elementary School. Still, the e-mailed, attorney-vetted statement doesn't address any of the laundry list of questions we rattled off to DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander late Friday afternoon -- or the couple of questions we added to the list yesterday afternoon, when we were told the district needed another day to respond.

Naturally, we had also left a message for Phil Jimerson, the executive director of construction services for DISD AKA, who met with residents some weeks back. Following the sit-down, the residents have raised a number of follow-up questions, which you can read in the comment threads and for which we hoped to get some answers.

Jimerson has yet to give us a return call, and, when we asked Dahlander if he could arrange a chat with Jimerson, well, we were told not to hold our breath.

We also asked Dahlander about the most egregious examples of the low-ball offers presented to the Jubilee Park folks facing the bulldozers, such as the Busaris (who have received a $50,000 offer for their longtime family home) and Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse. But based on the official statement from DISD, it looks like they won't be talking about any of these folks on an "individual" basis.

Which is ironic, because the holdout residents with whom we've spoken say that other than the town hall meeting with Jimerson, they feel they have been dealt with in a divide-and-conquer fashion.And when we asked Mark Mathie, the attorney representing a handful of the Jubilee Park holdouts what he thought of DISD's tactics, he said, "In this case, DISD is definitely taking a piecemeal approach."

Dahlander's statement follows, along with much, much more.

From Jon Dahlander:

"The Dallas Independent School District is continuing work on updating and building facilities within targeted areas of student population as part of the $1.35 billion bond program approved by voters in May 2008. One of the new facilities is a replacement school for O.M. Roberts Elementary in the Jubilee Park neighborhood of Dallas.

When completed, the replacement school will provide a state of the art campus for students from the neighborhood, complete with an attached cafeteria and gymnasium--neither of which are currently connected to the existing structure built in 1909. Until the process of acquiring property around the existing campus to provide adequate space for the new school is complete, the district is not in a position to comment regarding the purchase of individual pieces of property.

For information regarding rights afforded property owners as part of the Texas Landowner Bill of Rights, please visit the district web site at http://www.dallasisd.org/bond2008/pdf/lobillofrights.pdf or visit the district web site and click on the 2008 Bond Program link, then on the Landowner Bill of Rights page."

If you follow that link and check out the section on "Condemnation Proceedings" section, then you'll have a better idea of where these Jubilee Park folks stand as of today. Before a property is condemned, the land owners will get a hearing before a court-appointed panel that includes three special commissioners. Vickery owner Pat Berry's date is set for May 11.

This panel settles on a fair amount that the "condemning entity" owes for the taking of a property, because, as those rights clearly state: "Your property cannot be taken without adequate compensation. Adequate compensation includes the market value of the property being taken. It may also include certain damages, if any, to your remaining property caused by the acquisition itself or by the way the condemning entity will use the property."

In addition to establishing a fair sum, the commissioners must also determine "what compensation, if any" the landowners are entitled to receive for "any reduction in value of your remaining property."

Which should be interesting, especially because, according to Berry, DISD doesn't "need" the greenhouse's parking lot on the other side of South Fitzhugh Avenue. So they aren't offering him any cash for the lot. The theory goes that small parcel -- located directly across from the board-approved "O. M. Roberts Elementary School Replacement Site" -- will be too close to the new school building to sell for development. Which is undoubtedly why DISD doesn't want the land.

This morning, Berry lamented the future of the lot: "I'll be stuck having to keep it mowed and cared for so that I don't end up getting ticketed."

But what if those court-appointed commissioners don't see eye-to-eye with the property owners about the fair sum? What are the next steps for Berry and the Jubilee Park residents?

As Mathie told us, the process is not a quick one, and you can bet there will be loads of appeals.

As Bill of Rights No. 10 explains: "If you are unsatisfied with the compensation awarded by the special commissioners, or if you question whether the taking of your property was proper, you have the right to a trial by a judge or jury. If you are dissatisfied with the trial court's judgment, you may appeal that decision."

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