Families Worried About Losing Homes Due to Airport Expansion

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BROWNSVILLE – Designs are being finalized for a new terminal at the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

It’s one of multiple projects to upgrade the airport over the next few years.

The Sunny Skies Colonia is a town of private property owners. Families have spent generations there and their homes could be gone.

“We invested 25 years of our lives on this property,” said homeowner Juan Martinez.

Martinez said he built his home and paid $18,000 for the property.

Now, Martinez is concerned. He got a letter in the mail from Leonel Garza Jr. and Associates, LLC. It’s a real estate appraisal services company.  In the letter it asks homeowner’s permission to survey their property.  After, they will give them an offer to sell their property to the city of Brownsville for the Airport Expansion Project.

“I don't want to sell anything. I don't want to make any deal so far,” said Martinez.

Martinez said the entire neighborhood received a letter like his. Gumercindo Villarreal owns and lives at the store next Martinez.

“We didn't expect this. So we do know what to do,” said Villarreal. “I work here, my family works here. We've been doing this for 20 years. I don't want to just give it away like that.”

One of his customers, Noelia Diaz also got the letter for her mother’s property.

“If it’s happening we don't know how long we have to find her a different location,” said Diaz.

The families want answers from the city of Brownsville. CHANNEL 5 NEWS called the city and they said they would get back to us with answers. They have not returned our call.

We did speak to the real estate appraiser Leonel Garza. Garza explains the letters are only the first step of the process. They need permission from families to do the appraisal and have time to seek legal counsel during the negotiation period.

“If they don't want to give up their property; if the authority that is acquiring the property does have the right to eminent domain, and then the process of condemnation will proceed,“ said Leonel Garza III, Garza and Associates, LLC Real Estate Appraisal Services.

Villarreal contemplated where he would live when asked what if he ended up selling his property. “Under a bridge maybe. No, we don't have any home. This is our only home,” said Villarreal.

Garza explained the families can seek legal counsel and then the process will go to district court. He said the property will be eventually acquired by the city.

Garza said more than 40 people have received a letter.


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