COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Michael and Lori Swim knew instantly they had found their forever property more than a dozen years ago. They live in the Collin County extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, and have settled on 24 acres.
"It is beautiful up here isn't it? It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears over time," said Michael Swim.
Over 12 years, they've built a home, a ranch, a place for their children and grandchildren and enough land for the horses they rescue. Now, when the couple looks out, they see what they could potentially lose.
"We've been going through this for five years. We're tired," said Lori Swim.
Two of the four proposed options run right through their land, which is also known as Route C.
Route C would take out two barns and the home where the Swims' daughter and grandson live. The route could take about eight to ten acres, and to do that, the state would have to exercise eminent domain.
"It's the right of the state to take property from a private individual and convert it to a public use," said Clint Schumacher, who is an attorney with Dawson & Sodd.
The Dallas-area law firm exclusively deals with eminent domain cases. The firm does not represent the Swims but has clients fighting eminent domain involving the Highway 380 bypass project.
The Swims built the ETJ to get away from development, and just last month the couple held a wedding in their backyard. For Michael, it was a bittersweet moment.
"My son is married here, and we have the specter of potentially not being on the property anymore," he said.
Once the state decides a 380 bypass route, it will start negotiating "just compensation" with property owners. This clinical approach to valuing property is what leads to court. Schumacher told WFAA that there two ways to challenge possible eminent domain: politically and legally.
"At the end of the day, fair market value doesn't give you value for those intrinsic things that have real value to you but may not have value in the marketplace," said Schumacher.
For example, the value of raising children in a home, while important and valuable to us, carries no value on the market.
Schumacher told WFAA that generally single-family residential property is the least expensive to the state, also possibly least disruptive. Then, it's multi-family residential and industrial property. The most expensive is commercial property.
The fair market value is based on a number of factors, but one of the largest factors is the value of similarly situated properties adjacent to the property in question.
And the value of the property will be different now, compared to three to four years from now when the condemnation occurs. But it is safe to assume that Collin County property values have trended higher in the future.
"One of the most intrusive things our government does to an innocent person is take their land," said Schumacher.
Every proposed route will affect someone. It's the state's job to find the route with the least impact and public comment is a big part of that. The attorney says the best thing is to stay informed, talk to your local representative and make your voice heard at public meetings.
The portion of US 380 between Coit Road and FM 1827 had its public meeting on March 22nd is now closed for public comment. TxDOT tells WFAA the project is "being evaluated in the Environmental Impact Study and won’t be open to public comments until the public hearing."
TxDOT will host both an in-person and virtual public meeting to gather input on the western portion of the Highway 380 project. That portion covers US 380 between Teel Parkway/Championship Drive in Denton County and Lakewood Drive in Collin County. The in-person meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10, at the Rock Hill High School Cafeteria, located at 16061 Coit Road in Frisco. If you plan to attend, officials said you can arrived at any time during the two-hour timeframe -- you don't need to register.
The virtual meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 11 and will remain open through Wednesday, May 25 at www.keepitmovingdallas.com/US380ProsperFriscoWidening.
"The one that affects fewer residences, less grass-land, and less timber-land is Route D. These are small farms and small ranches that are directly impacted," said Michael.
TxDOT said it will take until the beginning of next year to narrow down the route choice. After that, it could take up to three to four years until condemnation happens.