Coverage of Army Reserve Center Property, Eminent Domain

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Sam Houston State University intends to acquire property at 2257 Sam Houston Avenue, recently purchased from the city by Maalouf Properties, through purchase or condemnation. The land, which contains a former Army Reserve Center, is included in SHSU’s long-range master planning for use by its ROTC and veterans’ programs. The conflict began in July.  Below is the Huntsville Item's coverage of the property, it's sale, and the aftermath from mid-to-late August.

Aug. 22 - Ads reflect advertiser's opinion
Item publisher Rita Halderman discusses a half-page ad that appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 18, edition of the newspaper from a group calling itself Eminent Doom.

Aug 20 - ‘First it’s my property, next is yours’
Members of the Huntsville community, VOLT PAC, the local branch of the Tea Party, and protest group Eminent Doom joined forces on Tuesday, Aug. 20 to protest not only action by Sam Houston State University, but against eminent domain as a whole.

Aug. 18 - Explainer: Eminent Domain
A primer on Condemnation, the process in which a government agency takes a piece of property for public use - more commonly known as eminent domain - and how it relates to this case.

Aug. 18 - Our View: SHSU should not condemn property
Says the Item: "If SHSU cannot buy the property from its new owner for a fair price, it should find another site for its long-range plans for veterans and ROTC students and preferably one that does not contribute or promise to contribute to city or county tax rolls."

Aug. 15 - P&Z Commission OKs Land Division
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted in favor of splitting Huntsville Fire Station No.2 and the Military Reserve Building into separate lots, but there was concern among P&Z members on the properties sharing access to Sam Houston Avenue, depending on what becomes of the abandoned military building. City Council approved a $650,000 bid to Maalouf Properties for the land, which is currently being pursued by SHSU to acquire either by purchase or condemnation through the Texas State University System. P&Z members questioned whether commercial traffic from a bar or night club would jeopardize firefighters’ ability to answer calls.

Maalouf Land Sale Now Final

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According to the August 23 Huntsville Item, Maalouf Properties and the city of Huntsville have finalized the $650,000 agreement to sell 2.5 acres of land occupied by the former Military Reserve Building on Sam Houston Avenue:
The deal was supposed to close on Friday, but once the Huntsville City Council on Tuesday approved a subdivision plat that separated the property from Huntsville Fire Station No. 2 and approved a shared easement that allows access to Sam Houston Avenue for both properties, Tarek Maalouf was ready to make the transaction final as soon as possible.

Maalouf isn't the only buyer who wanted the property. Sam Houston State University has said it intends to purchase the property from Maalouf or acquire it through eminent domain.

The Texas State University System authorized SHSU to buy property through negotiation and purchase at its meeting last Friday at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Since then, Maalouf said, there has been no attempt to contact him or his attorney Lanny Ray regarding a purchase.

TSUS administrators pulled consideration of eminent domain proceedings from its agenda last week because the land had not been split from the fire station.

Areas ranging from the Avenue I intersection to 22nd Street are highlighted in the university’s updated plan as long-term growth zones.

There is another larger section mapped out in SHSU's master plan for long-term use around the Town Creek corridor.

City Presents Budget Update

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City Presents Budget Update
From the Huntsville Item [Aug. 20]:
City Council members were given a presentation of planned budget changes at Tuesday night’s council meeting, with a few adjustments from the workshop held on July 23.

The Raven’s Nest Golf Course revenue generated from a lease agreement with Sam Houston State University would be budgeted through the debt service fund, if council approves. The change, city officials said, would allow for more flexibility in case the university ever purchases the golf course from the city.

With the revenue budgeted in general funds, if the university tried to buy the course, the city would not be able to collect the yearly lease amount of $325,000 from the university and would be without the revenue, Finance Director Steve Ritter said.

In order to plan for this type of scenario, the city recommends moving the revenue source to the debt fund.

The amount had not been budgeted in the 2013 fiscal year because the university had shown interest in possibly purchasing the golf course.

"Basically, the general fund still ends up getting the same amount of revenues, but now it’s property tax revenue instead of the golf course revenue."
Properties split into two lots, will share access to Sam Houston Avenue
Council members voted unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting to separate the properties occupying Huntsville Fire Station No. 2 and the old Military Reserve Building, recently purchased from the city by Maalouf Properties.

Sam Houston State University has shown interest in acquiring the land sold to Maalouf through either purchase or condemnation by way of eminent domain. The Texas State University System Board of Regents were supposed consider allowing the university to carry on with eminent domain proceedings the Attorney General’s Office, but system administrators pulled the item when it was learned that the necessary metes and bounds survey had not been conducted on the land.

The subdivision plat establishes the properties as separate locations. Council also voted for a shared access easement to between the two properties to and from Sam Houston Avenue.

Ward 1 council member, like a few Planning and Zoning Commission members, did express concern that depending on what type of business occupies the Military Reserve Building in the future, it could present parking issues for the fire department in case of emergency. Community and Economic Development Director Aron Kulhavy told P&Z members that the fire department was on board, and City Attorney Leonard Schneider reaffirmed council members on Tuesday.

Regents Want Negotiations On Maalouf Property

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The Huntsville Item reports [Aug. 17] that the Texas State University System authorized SHSU to acquire property occupied by the Military Reserve Building on Sam Houston Avenue through negotiation and purchase:
Texas State University System administrators decided not to have the regents consider acquiring the property through eminent domain because, TSUS spokesman Mike Wintemute said, the proper metes and bounds survey had not been conducted to separate the property from the adjacent Huntsville Fire Station No. 2.

Huntsville’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted Thursday to recommend City Council approve a measure to divide the properties, while allowing them to share an easement that provides access to Sam Houston Avenue.

Maalouf Properties and the city of Huntsville have entered into a contract to buy the city-owned land after council awarded Maalouf’s $650,000 bid July 2.

The same 2.5-acre property has been identified by SHSU administrators as necessary in the university’s Master Plan Update, approved by the regents in February, to provide for the expansion of the university’s ROTC program and services for student veterans, expected this fall to number at approximately 1,000.

At least two local businessmen, including Tarek Maalouf of Maalouf Properties, have offered to donate land to the university for ROTC and veterans programs.

Maalouf offered a share of his 57 acres behind the Community Services Credit Union on FM 2821 and Quality Boulevard, but the university declined the offer, Hooten said, because it did not fit within the university’s future growth areas.

George Russell sent an email to SHSU President Dana Gibson on Wednesday offering 9,000-square-foot building at the corner of Ave O and 16th Street.

August 2013 Regents Report

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Today@Sam has their report on the quarterly meeting of the Texas State University System Board of Regents:
[T]he design development documents prepared by The Lawrence Group of Austin for the SHSU Student Health and Counseling Center project at a cost of $10.3 million were approved.

SHSU students passed a referendum in 2012 to support the new construction through student fees. The two-story, 29,600 gross-square-foot facility will be located in the North District of campus on the old site of King Hall and will house both the physical health clinic as well as the mental health counseling center.

Level one is dedicated to the Student Health Clinic and will include 24 exam rooms, a laboratory, triage and procedure rooms, staff support space, and a walk-up pharmacy.

The counseling center program and shared administrative suite will occupy the second level. The mental health clinic will include a separate lobby, 20 private therapy offices, a group therapy space, relaxation room and other staff support space.

In other business, the regents authorized SHSU to purchase 20.69 acres of land contiguous to the university’s Gibbs Ranch. The acquisition will straighten existing property lines, and the property will be used to further advance curriculum and activities at the ranch for the benefit of the university’s agricultural sciences students.

The regents also authorized SHSU to acquire property located at 2257 Sam Houston Ave. in Huntsville, commonly known as the Army Reserve Building, through negotiation and purchase. The property has been identified as necessary in the SHSU’s Master Plan Update to provide for the expansion of the university’s ROTC program and to provide support services for student veterans, expected to number approximately 1,000 in fall 2013.

Regents No Longer Considering Property Condemnation

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From the Huntsville Item, updated at 4:30 pm:

The Texas State University System Board of Regents will not consider a plan to eminent domain a property sold to a local businessman, a system spokesman said.

The decision, which was made this morning, was made because the regents felt Sam Houston State Unversity had not properly surveyed the land prior to submitting to the Board.

The Texas State University System Board of Regents were going to consider this week using eminent domain to condemn the Sam Houston Avenue property occupied by the abandoned Military Reserve Building and under contract for $650,000 by Maalouf Properties of Huntsville.

Regents to Consider Maalouf Property Condemnation

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The latest on the Maalouf property saga continues as noted in the August 13 Huntsville Item:
The Texas State University System Board of Regents will consider this week using eminent domain to condemn the Sam Houston Avenue property occupied by the abandoned Military Reserve Building and under contract for $650,000 by Maalouf Properties of Huntsville.

Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Fernando Gomez told The Item on Monday that the university system preferred to purchase the 1,600-square-foot facility from Maalouf Properties but intends to acquire it through condemnation if necessary.

Tarek Maalouf said Monday that he was concerned that he would not be able to address the Board of Regents until after members vote on acquiring the property through purchase or condemnation.

Maalouf has said he intends to develop the property for commercial use that would contribute to the city’s tax rolls.

Mike Wintemute, spokesman for the Texas State University System Board of Regents, said it was premature to speculate on how the regents will vote this week. SHSU needs the land to house its programs for veterans and ROTC operations, which are “robust and expected to continue to grow,” he said. “The university sees that facility as a great opportunity to serve veterans as it has a history of doing,” Wintemute said. This particular piece of property is important to SHSU because it’s ”adjacent to campus and convenient to students” and has been included — along with a swath of property down Sam Houston Avenue from 22nd Street to Avenue I — in SHSU’s master plan, he said.

Wintemute said he didn’t know why SHSU didn’t bid on the property in June.

SHSU officials, however, blame the city of Huntsville. SHSU didn’t bid because the city failed to notify university officials of the bid requirements after knowing its intention to purchase the property, SHSU spokeswoman Julia May on Monday.

Purchase or condemnation: SHSU wants $650,000 Maalouf property

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The Huntsville Item reports (Aug. 11) that SHSU is threatening to condemn an abandoned Military Reserve Building on Sam Houston Avenue if the winning bidder, Tarek Maalouf of Maalouf Properties in Huntsville, does not agree to sell it the land:
Texas State University System Vice Chancellor Fernando Gomez sent a letter dated Monday, Aug. 5, to City Attorney Leonard Schneider and Maalouf’s attorney Lanny Ray notifying both parties of the university’s intention to acquire the land, either through purchase or condemnation.

Maalouf offered $650,000 — $50,000 over the city’s asking price — for the land and abandoned Military Reserve Building at 2257 Sam Houston Ave. He met the city’s June 17 bid deadline, and the Huntsville City Council accepted his bid July 2. Maalouf, according to the city, now has a contract for the sale of the property and has paid a 5 percent escrow fee.

But SHSU did not make an offer during the city’s call for bids and attempted to persuade the city, in a June 28 email sent to Mayor Mac Woodward and City Manager Matt Benoit, to cancel any bid for the property.

State law allows SHSU to condemn the property through “eminent domain to acquire for the use of the system universities the lands necessary and proper for carrying out their purposes,” according to Texas Education Code, Sections 95.30 and 95.31 and the provisions of Property Code, Chapter 21.

The charter requires that the city advertise for bids on any property it intends to sell for two consecutive weeks. The city published legal notice for an invitation of bids in The Huntsville Item on May 30 and June 6. Hooten asked June 5 for the appraised value of the land and was given that information by the city, Schneider says, and the bid period expired June 17.

"No bid was received from Sam Houston State University. No formal offer in writing stating an amount to buy the property has ever been received from the university,” Schneider writes. “The city has not received a written appraisal from the university, has not received a bona fide offer in writing from the university, nor has the city been notified that the governing body of the Texas State University System has authorized condemnation by the university at a properly noticed meeting.”

Call for Student Health and Counseling Center Art

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Sam Houston State University's Department of Facilities Planning and Construction invites artists to submit proposals for art for new the Student Health and Counseling Center.  SHSU, in consultation with the SHSU Art Committee and Lawrence Group Architects, has targeted the following potential art opportunities within the new building:

  • Exterior Guard Railing Panels

Along the north facade of the building, at the exterior covered patio, there is a 100' long guardrail system which has been designed to include a 14 gauge sheet metal infill panel, approximately 3'-0" high.

  • Exterior Sculpture at front entry "Zen Garden"

Along the east facade of the building, at the main entry, there are 2 small "Zen Gardens" that one must pass between entering the building. The southern and largest sized planting area has been targeted for a traditional sculptural piece that will be able to be viewed from both the exterior while entering the building as well as from the interior within the entry lobby waiting area.
The new building is being planned for the space once occupied by King Hall (and Bearkat Den, if you want to be nostalgic about it).

For more information visit the website of the Department of Facilities Planning.