A group of counties in the path of the planned Houston-Dallas high-speed rail have filed an amicus brief March 30 in the Texas Supreme Court case Miles v. Texas Central, accusing the company Texas Central of not paying property taxes for 2021.
The case centers on a 236-mile high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas being planned by the company Texas Central. Filed by landowner Jim Miles in 2016, the lawsuit argues Texas Central does not qualify as a railroad company under state law and therefore cannot use eminent domain to acquire land needed to construct the line.
The Texas Supreme Court initially declined to hear the case in June after an appeals court ruled Texas Central could be defined as a company. Miles petitioned for a rehearing, and the court reversed course Oct. 15 to grant a rehearing. The court heard oral arguments Jan. 11.
The counties filing the letter include Grimes, Waller, Madison, Leon, Ellis, Freestone, Limestone and Navarro. Harris County and Dallas County were included in the alleged tax delinquency, but neither county was party to the amicus brief. Harris County Commissioners Rodney Elis and Adrian Garcia filed a separate amicus brief Jan. 10 expressing support for the project.
The taxes owed come to a total of $622,975 with Harris County making up $216,359 of the money. The brief reported Ellis County mistakenly granted tax exemptions to the railroad, and once the exemptions were rolled back, it would claim its share of delinquent taxes.
According to the Harris County Appraisal District’s parcel viewer, 47 county parcels are owned by “Texas Central Railroad and Infrastructure,” “Texas Central Railroad” or “Texas Central.” All of the parcels were acquired prior to 2021. Additionally, a parcel belonging to Cadiz Development LLC is registered at the site of the Northwest Mall, where the railroad plans to build its Houston station. According to an October press release, Cadiz Development is one of the companies involved in the station's development.
Kellen Zale, an associate professor with the University of Houston, said using eminent domain generally does not affect an entity’s taxing requirements.
“There is a caveat that some entities given eminent domain may have a different status relating to their taxes, but overall once the title is transferred and compensation paid, they have to pay taxes," Zale said.
Texas Central did not respond to a request for comment from Community Impact Newspaper.