Homeowners upset over HISD buyout offers

October 5, 2009 10:10:10 AM PDT
It's a fight over homes in northeast Houston between residents and the Houston Independent School District. HISD is looking to acquire land on Liberty Road near Dogan Elementary School. Residents say they were only informed about this buyout just a couple of months ago. They are concerned that there hasn't been a single community meeting and no one has come by to explain how the process will work.

Emily Peterson has lived on her block for more than 60 years. She and her husband Riley have raised six kids here and call it home, but soon this elderly couple could be forced to pack their bags if HISD gets what it wants.

"I want my house. I don't want to sell out," said Emily.

HISD wants to expand Dogan Elementary and to do that, it's looking to buy some eight to ten acres just south of the campus. That means families which have been here for decades, like 83-year-old Wilda Berry, have been asked to sell their homes or possibly face eminent domain.

"I'm not able to buy another home, not able. Don't know where I'm going to find another," said Berry.

What troubles some residents even more than being asked to move are the offers HISD has given. For the four properties the Petersons own in the neighborhood, the district is willing to pay just over $183,000.

"My house alone is almost worth that, see," said Riley.

HISD Board President Lawrence Marshall says the development is necessary. Not only will it support a new, improved school, but it will rejuvenate an ailing neighborhood. He believes the district can work with residents to meet on common ground.

"I have never seen a property acquisition where the homeowner has been the loser," said Marshall.

Still for some residents it's not about the money, rather the peace of mind, instead of being concerned over having to find a new house, when theirs is just fine.

"I'd like to die in my house. This is my house," said Elizabeth Williams.

HISD points out this is still in the negotiation phase and they say to get eminent domain will require another vote by the district's board.

Homeowners can make themselves heard at the next school board meeting on Thursday, October 8. You have to call 48 hours before the meeting to sign up to speak. The number to call is 713-556-6121.

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