Following a meeting of Dallas County Commissioners at which Commissioner John Wiley Price instructed Dallas County staff to design a plan to remove all residents from Sandbranch and demolish their homes, resident representatives reacted in disbelief vowing to resist. Pastor Eugene Keahey, speaking on behalf of residents and the Sandbranch Development and Water Supply Corporation (SDWSC) said the community’s own plan, not eviction, is the best solution for bringing a water distribution system and other humanitarian services to Sandbranch residents.
Under Commissioner Price’s plan, first residents would be offered money to voluntarily move and have their homes demolished. When Dallas County offered a similar program in 2005, the county arranged for the demolition and paid the vendors directly. Homeowners who accepted that plan received an average of $350 as a buyout payment.
Residents who refuse the voluntary buyout would be involuntarily removed. Dallas County, under the auspices of the Health Code, would conduct inspections of each residence then declare the house a public nuisance and fine the homeowner between $50.00 and $200.00 per day. Dallas County would then get a court order to demolish the house and sue the property owner to recover the cost of demolition.
Keahey, responding to the proposal said, “Dallas County’s buyout in 2005 was a disaster for the community, now, this is even worse. Who wants the government coming into their home, announcing it’s unfit, then kicking you out? Some of these residents are well into their senior years and have lived their entire lives in Sandbranch. A move would all but kill them. All we want from the county is to stop illegal dumping in this area, spray for mosquitos, and keep our roads repaired.”
Mark McPherson, an attorney representing the SDWSC balked at the plan, as well, describing it as a Dallas County housing grab. McPherson said, “Imagine you are a resident of Sandbranch. You make $720 per month but you own your home and you know your neighbors. One day, an official shows up at your door and says, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you out of these deplorable living conditions’. How many people in North Dallas or the suburbs would go for that deal?”
Keahy emphasized, “Sandbranch has its own ideas for helping residents in its Strategic Vision and Plan for Improvements to the Sandbranch Community that began in March 2016 with incorporation of the SDWSC. The SDWSC board already has identified a major engineering firm to explore ways to bring water to the community. The solution can be funded up to 75% by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the remaining 25% coming from other grants and funding sources, i.e., costing Dallas County little or nothing.”
Keahey said, “The community’s approach is a new way of looking at solving challenging problems like this. Don’t leave it entirely to local government, sure they have a role to play, but look for collaborative partnerships, non-profits, and new funding sources then apply them creatively. It’s disappointing today’s action at the Commissioners’ Court didn’t even acknowledge we have a plan to provide water as well as home repair and maintenance, nutrition, and health services. It looks like the only plan they advanced was forcible eviction of innocent residents.”