DID THE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S CONSTRUCTION OF A ROADWAY VIOLATE THE PROPERTY OWNER’S RIGHTS?
Case citation: Sundance at Stone Oak Association v. NortheastISD, 2013 WL 6022259 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 2013) (unpublished).
Summary: Sundance at Stone Oak Association was a property owner association governing the Sundance at Stone Oak Subdivision. As part of the development of the subdivision, the builder deeded a 6.448 acre tract of land to Sundance to be used as common area for the subdivision. The subdivision bordered an ongoing extension of Hardy Oak Road, a public road in Bexar County, Texas. The Northeast Independent School District sought to construct an extension to that roadway to support the flow of traffic to and from a nearby elementary school. However, a portion of the street extension crossed the 6.448 acre tract owned by Sundance. The district maintained that an easement filed in
1986, known as the Sitterle Easement, provided the district legal authority to build the extension of the road. Sundance sued the school district and engineering firm for the project, arguing that the road extension was going to impact drainage of surface water that would render a portion of the property unusable. The school district sought judgment in its favor prior to trial and the trial court ruled in favor of the district. Sundance appealed, arguing that the Sitterle Easement did not grant the district the right to construct a roadway on the property.
Ruling: The appeals court held that the school district was entitled to construct the roadway. According to the appeals court, the plain language of the Sitterle Easement allowed for the construction of the Hardy Oaks roadway. Further, the rights of ingress and egress regarding pipes, cables, lines and appurtenances granted in the easement were consistent with the use for “road and street” purposes. Thus, the district’s rights included the uses necessary to carry out the purposes of the roadway, including construction of the roadway. The trial court did not err when it granted judgment in favor of the school district.
Sundance also argued that the district’s roadway construction amounted to a trespass and inverse condemnation. Trespass occurs when a person enters another’s property without express or implied permission. A takings claim requires a showing that a governmental actor acted intentionally to take or damage property for a public use. According to the appeals court, both causes of action required Sundance to show that the district acted without legal authority. The appeals court, however, already determined that the district had legal authority to construct the roadway under the terms of the Sitterle Easement. The court of appeals, therefore, upheld the judgment in favor of the district.