Reflecting on 2023 and What to Expect in 2024: Q&A with Nicholas Laurent
2023 has been another interesting year for eminent domain in Texas. While there wasn’t much change to legislation, there were some monumental cases that brought eminent domain and condemnation to the forefront of the media, and Texans learned how this area of the law can impact their properties and larger communities. In 2024, Texans will continue to see large infrastructure projects unfold as the State continues to grow. Attorney Nicholas Laurent at Barron, Adler, Clough & Oddo, PLLC reflects on the milestone events from this year and explains what the new year might bring for the world of eminent domain law in Texas.
Q: What was the biggest story in Texas eminent domain law in 2023?
A: One of the most interesting cases we saw in 2023 was the City of Austin’s condemnation of the south terminal at the Austin Airport that our firm handled. The case involved unique issues of condemnation related to land the condemning entity already owned and was also novel because the leasehold being condemned was fairly recent. Given public interest the case made lots of headlines.
Q: Did the Legislature pass any Legislation related to eminent domain?
A: There were fairly substantial revisions to the Property Code provisions that relate to eminent domain in the 2021 Legislative session, but we did not see many revisions to the Property Code during the 2023 Legislative session. We expect landowner advocates will try to advance additional legislative changes in the 2025 Legislative session.
Q: What do you see as the biggest win in 2023 for landowner rights?
A: The State condemned the former Fairfield State Park property in Freestone County after the State passed on a prior opportunity to buy the property. Following the preliminary steps to condemn the property, the State has indicated it now intends to abandon the acquisition which is a significant victory for the landowner. That taking was very controversial and garnered significant media attention and the State likely determined the cost or the optics, or perhaps both, did not justify the continued pursuit of the taking.
Q: Were there any legal setbacks in protecting landowner rights this year?
A: There were no landmark appellate opinions in Texas that negatively impacted landowner rights this year. There are several cases working their way through the appellate courts that could have an impact on landowner rights, and we are closely monitoring all of those cases and filing amicus briefs if appropriate.
Q: Do you have any predictions for what 2024 will bring in Texas eminent domain law?
A: We are going to see several very large projects being litigated in 2024, namely two large highway projects, I-35 in central Austin and I-45 from central Houston to the Beltway.