FORT WORTH -- Like the proverbial train coming down the track, the city of Fort Worth is bound to take part of Marty Marterella's property to build a second railroad line to accommodate a runway expansion at Alliance Airport, he knows.
But Marterella, 69, a retired Agriculture Department inspector, said the city's offers aren't compensating him for losing an estimated 0.17 acre of his property to place a second track behind his home.
The new 12-mile main line is needed to make room for the runway extension and also to improve the flow of freight into -- or around -- the BNSF Railway yard at Alliance.
"This is going to be my last home," Marterella said. "It seems to me like the city of Fort Worth is saying: 'We're Big Brother and we know what's best. You best get with it or get run over.'"
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In Lonesome Dove Estates, where he lives, 17 properties are listed to have some land taken for the new railroad line. Overall, about 120 properties would be affected by the new line, about 30 of them with homes.
But city officials say that no homes will be condemned for the new track. So far, 20 to 30 offers have been made to property owners, city spokesman Jason Lamers said.
Marterella has received an offer for the portion of his acre-plus property and said he has until today to respond.
He declined to reveal the offer but said it wouldn't properly compensate him for the loss in property values he will see from the project.
The City Council voted this month without discussion to hire an attorney for eminent domain proceedings related to the acquisition of property in north Fort Worth for a new BNSF rail line. BNSF officials did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Patrick Buckley, senior professional engineer for the city, said negotiations have begun with homeowners to acquire portions of their property to make room for the new line and a line that avoids the airport.
Buckley said the city could fall back on using eminent domain, the right of a city to acquire private property, if homeowners do not agree to sell the requested land.
"We're hoping we don't have to [pursue eminent domain]," Buckley said. "But if we do have to, we need to have somebody under contract."
Several dozen residents from Lonesome Dove Estates near Haslet and surrounding neighborhoods attended a public meeting in April to question why the city was planning to buy parts of their property. After meeting with residents, Buckley and other city officials agreed to re-examine their proposal. Now they are asking for about 10 feet of property from each owner instead of an earlier proposal of 25 feet.
Buckley said an independent appraiser establishes the fair market value of the land being acquired. But sometimes people believe their property is undervalued. Buckley said the city tries to work with homeowners to find a more reasonable price for the land.
For Marterella, who moved to Lonesome Dove Estates in 2005, the one railroad track already behind his home hasn't been that much of a headache. But some of his neighbors have moved because of the track is so close.But a second track changes things.
"When you start double-tracking and putting in a service road, then it becomes an issue, especially when I'm not properly compensated for the devaluation of my property," Marterella said.
If negotiations fail to bring a better price, Marterella is contemplating hiring a lawyer and getting ready for condemnation proceedings.
If the city pursues condemnation, a county court-at-law judge would appoint three special commissioners to determine fair market value.
Either side could appeal that decision to a district court, but the city could deposit that amount and take possession of the property.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698