Ruling issues Kinder Morgan to pay 'fair amount' for damages to Blanco County resident's land

Correction and clarification: This article was updated to correct information about Kinder Morgan agreeing to pay the amount to the landowner. They have not agreed and plan to appeal the panel's decision.

A Commissioner's Court has issued a ruling for Kinder Morgan to pay $233,500 to Blanco County landowner Matthew Walsh for damages to his land, according to a news release. The company plans to appeal the panel's decision.

Gillespie County’s 121 landowners facing condemnation suits will no doubt take note, as market values for Hill Country property increases rapidly.

The award was ordered Tuesday, Aug. 6, by a three-panel special commission of real estate professionals as part of condemnation proceedings related to Kinder Morgan’s planned 42-inch, 430-mile natural gas pipeline that is proposed to go from West Texas to Houston via the Texas Hill Country.

The award comes despite the company claiming there would be no damages to the property.

“I feel like I’ve been living in a nightmare since I heard about the pipeline coming through my land last October,” Walsh said in the release. “Kinder Morgan’s initial offer was insultingly low. I hope that other landowners will hear my story and join me in fighting for fair compensation.”

Walsh, who owns 53 acres near the city of Blanco, was going to build a new home before learning about Kinder Morgan’s project. Now, he said he and his family will have to wait three years for the construction to finish and the company’s temporary lease on the land to sell the property.

“I do not feel safe living within a few hundred feet of such a massive natural gas pipeline,” Walsh said in the release.

After Walsh was contacted by Kinder Morgan about the project, he consulted with land appraisers, who found the land value was reduced by $261,663.

Kinder Morgan’s initial offer was rejected by Walsh because it didn’t reflect damages to his land’s value.

As a result, Kinder Morgan forced Walsh into legal proceeding and testified the damages were $16,707 for the 50-foot easement.

This tactic was rejected by the commission.

“We are not surprised that a panel of Blanco County Special Commissioners intimately familiar with the Texas Hill Country real estate understood the very real and significant damages the pipeline will do to land values in the area,” Walsh’s condemnation attorney Patrick Reznik said in the release. “Kinder Morgan has failed to recognize this fact because it must be inconvenient to their bottom line, although Hill Country landowners have been saying for months that the presence of the 42-inch natural gas pipeline on their property may devalue their land by roughtly 20-40.”

Sean Haynes, executive director of the Texas Real Estate Advocacy Defense (TREAD) Coalition, questioned if Kinder Morgan has intended on fairly compensating landowners in this process, as previously promised.

“If landowners hold firm and demand fair compensation, it will be interesting to see if Kinder Morgan continues to believe that Hill Country still holds the ‘best route’ for the PHP,” he said.

Walsh, a member of TREAD, is one of the first landowners to go through condemnation proceedings associated with the Permian Hill Country Pipeline in the Hill Country.

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