What should you know as a landowner if you receive a Matterhorn Pipeline Initial Offer Letter? Texas condemnation rights attorney Philip Hundl talks about some of the things you should be thinking about if you’ve received a letter. Call or text 800-266-4870 for an appointment. Our appointments can be in-person, online or by phone.
Summary of Matterhorn Pipeline Initial Offer Letters
Hi, I’m Philip Hundl and my law practice focuses on representing landowners who are facing eminent domain or condemnation proceedings. We’ve talked in several other videos about the Matterhorn Pipeline project. It’s a large pipeline project involving many counties from out in West Texas.
The Matterhorn Express Pipeline passes just north of Austin and Williamson County, and then dips down at an angle towards Wharton County and Fort Bend County. I want to keep you updated about this project. Many of you affected by this project have been contacted by right of way agents or gotten sued with temporary restraining orders issued against you so that Matterhorn can enter your property and survey. Most of that surveying has been completed.
There has been some follow up need by Matterhorn to do some cultural resource surveys, what I call archeological surveys. Oftentimes if a pipeline route goes near or through a body of water there are additional surveys that need to be completed. That’s happening right now with a lot of different tracts. Maybe that’s affecting you, maybe not.
Initial Offer Letters Are Being Received by Affected Landowners
Also the Initial Offer Letter packets are being sent out to landowners. These are packets of 30 to 40 pages. So even if you’re represented by a lawyer, you will get this directly. Even when the lawyers notify the condemnor and say you’re represented by a lawyer they will always send it to the landowner. Most of the time they’ll send the lawyer a copy as well. I’ve gotten copies of these for Matterhorn.
What’s in these initial offer letters? First it gives the initial offer amount and it attaches a copy of the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights. It also attaches the Matterhorn Pipeline standard easement right of way agreement. Note that this easement right of way agreement incorporates some of the new eminent domain reform language from the last legislature. So you’ll see some additional paragraphs in this updated version.
This right of way easement agreement has 19 provisions. So what are some things that I look for in these easement agreements? What’s in these provisions that will need to be revised and improved upon? That’s part of the negotiation process with Matterhorn.
Carefully Read the Standard Easement Agreement
The standard easement agreement limits the diameter of the pipe and limits the easement to one pipe. That’s good. But above ground appurtenances are not limited here. Condemnors tend to not want to limit above ground appurtenances to give themselves more flexibility. That’s something that’s very concerning to landowners because they want to know what could be on the surface of their property.
It’s also important to landowners to specify the condemnor’s right of ingress and egress and how broad that is. Landowners want to know how that affects the rest of their property, even property outside the easement area. So although the legislature has attempted to try to help landowners by adding some initial basic provisions there is more that should be negotiated to protect your rights as a landowner.
Each tract is unique. Each tract has its own requirements and needs. Landowners have different uses of their property and those current and planned uses have to be taken in consideration in the easement agreement. It’s one thing to think about what the landowner doing on the property right now. But you as a landowner are also concerned about the future. You likely have hopes for the next generation on the property. It can be difficult to try to take everything into consideration, but that’s really what you need to do.
The initial offer letter doesn’t have the final plat of the easement. It has an aerial image with just a shaded diagram of the proposed easement area. It’s not a typical plat survey. As the process progresses that’s something that Matterhorn should make available to you.
Read the Texas Landowner Bill of Rights
Take a moment to read the Landowner Bill of Rights. It explains a lot of things. And oftentimes the condemnor includes the W-9 in the packet. In my opinion, that’s the condemnor’s way of being optimistic about the landowner accepting the initial offer.
So really important for you to understand your rights if you’re affected by this project. You should understand the obligations of the pipeline company and understand the condemnation process so that you know what to expect and when to expect it.
It’s very important that you seek out and talk with an attorney who handles condemnation cases for landowners. You need this expert advice and information to become more familiar with what’s going on. Condemnation of your property is not something you will get comfortable with, but if you are knowledgeable that will lower the stress level. Your knowledge and a trusted legal advisor helps you negotiate the best possible easement terms with the most compensation for you.
Once again, initial offer letters are being sent out by the Matterhorn Pipeline. You will have gotten one already, or you will be getting one soon. So with that good luck.
Get the Trust Legal Advice You Need
Call 800-266-4870 for an appointment with Attorney Philip Hundl. You can schedule an appointment at one of our offices or schedule a virtual appointment online or by phone. Click the button below for a no-obligation case evaluation.