In re Lazy W Dist. No. 1 (Opinion)Annotate this Case
The Tarrant Regional Water District supplies water to two million Texans across 11 counties and is a governmental agency with the power of eminent domain. In 2010, the Water District and the City of Dallas approved a financing agreement to build a 150-mile pipeline to transport water owned by Dallas in Lake Palestine to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Construction began in 2014. The proposed route crosses the 1,000-acre LazyW Ranch five miles northwest of Athens in Henderson County, with a 150-foot-wide underground easement, about 3,375 feet long, covering 11.623 acres. The owner, Bennett, opposed to the project, obtained legislation creating the LazyW District, a municipal utility district. Bennett sued the Water District for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act; the court of appeals concluded that the Water District was immune from suit. Bennett repeatedly tried, unsuccessfully, to replace incumbent board members who support the Project’s use of the Ranch and dedicated a small cemetery on the Ranch in the proposed pipeline's path. The Water District offered the Lazy W $169,218 for the easement, and when the offer was rejected, petitioned for condemnation. Bennett asserted governmental immunity. The court refused to proceed further without deciding whether the case should be dismissed. The court of appeals granted mandamus relief. The Supreme Court of Texas vacated, rejecting an argument that the trial court cannot
rule on the Lazy W’s plea to the jurisdiction until the commissioners issue their award. It is important that the special commissioners convene and render an award expeditiously and without interference from the court. The trial court had the obligation to consider the Lazy W’s assertion of immunity when the plea to the jurisdiction was filed.