United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
VILLA MONTECHINO, L.P., A TEXAS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, Plaintiff,
THE CITY OF LAGO VISTA. Defendant.
SPARKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the
above-styled cause, and specifically Plaintiff Villa
Montechino, L.P. (Plaintiff's Motion to Remand [#7],
Defendant City of Lago Vista (City)'s Response [#11] in
opposition, and Plaintiffs Reply [#12] in support. Having
reviewed the documents, the governing law, and the file as a
whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and orders.
case, Plaintiff alleges the City engaged in a wrongful
"taking" of Plaintiffs property without just
compensation. According to the First Amended Original
Petition (Amended Petition), Plaintiff owns a subdivision in
Lago Vista, Texas, and had an agreement with the City to
develop the subdivision. Mot. Remand [#1-1] Ex. A (Am. Pet.)
¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiff alleges the City required it to
improve certain aspects of the subdivision, including the
construction of lift stations, a water tower, a stop light, a
detention pond, and other road and utility improvements.
Id. Plaintiff claims "[t]he City refused to let
the development move forward if [Plaintiff] did not agree [to
the improvements] and [the City] continued to shut down the
subdivision, denied further approvals, refused to release
lines of credit and continued to red tag the subdivision
until [Plaintiff] gave in and agreed" to make the
improvements. Id. ¶¶ 13-17. Plaintiff
argues these actions constitute a regulatory taking.
Id. Plaintiff also claims the City has physically
taken and damaged certain utility improvements by
"extending and hooking other lines up to these utilities
to divert water to serve other members of the public and the
Lago Vista Independent School District" without
compensating Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 14.
9, 2016, Plaintiff filed its Original Petition in the 200th
Judicial District Court, Travis County, Texas. Not. Removal
[#1-1] Ex. A (Original Pet.). In the Original Petition,
Plaintiff brings four causes of action: a claim for
declaratory relief under the Texas Declaratory Judgment Act,
including a request that the court declare that the
City's use of utility improvements constitutes an
unconstitutional taking under the Texas Constitution; a claim
for inverse condemnation based on the City's alleged
unconstitutional taking under the Texas Constitution; a claim
for trespass; and a claim to quiet title. Id.
March 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed its Amended Petition bringing
claims for declaratory relief, inverse condemnation, and
negligence and gross negligence. Am. Pet. ¶¶ 18-37.
In its amended declaratory action, Plaintiff seeks "a
declaration of its rights, status and legal relations with
respect to the scope and constitutionality of Ordinance
09-05-21-02 [. . . and] Ordinance No. 0-29-14"
(Ordinances), and requests the court declare both Ordinances
"unconstitutional as applied in this case."
Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Further, in the amended
inverse condemnation claim, Plaintiff states the City's
"taking, using, altering and connecting to the subject
privately built utility improvements and related income and
profits is an unconstitutional taking under the Texas
Constitution, Article I, Section 17, and alternatively under
U.S. Constitution, Amendment V should a recovery not be had
under the Texas Constitution." Id. ¶ 23;
see also Id. ¶ 27 ("All the above acts of
the [C]ity referred to herein constitute a use, taking
damaging, or destroying of Plaintiff['s] property
interest for public use without adequate compensation having
been paid, in violation of Section 17 of Article I of the
Constitution of the State of Texas and alternatively, in
violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S.
April 4, 2017, the City timely removed the case to this
Court, claiming Plaintiffs takings claim under the Fifth
Amendment and request that the Court declare the Ordinances
unconstitutional established federal question jurisdiction.
Not. Removal [#1] ¶ 3. Now Plaintiff moves to remand the
case, arguing this Court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction because Plaintiffs claims are not ripe. Mot.
defendant may remove a civil action from state court to
federal court if the action originally could have been
brought in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). Federal courts have federal question jurisdiction
over "all civil actions arising under the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States." Id.
§ 1331. "The removing party bears the burden of
showing that federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was
proper." Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins.
Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002).
exercise jurisdiction under Article III of the U.S.
Constitution, a case must be ripe. United Tramp. Union v.
Foster, 205 F.3d 851, 857 (5th Cir. 2000). The ripeness
doctrine is "drawn both from Article III limitations on
judicial power and from prudential reasons for refusing to
exercise jurisdiction . . . ." Reno v. Catholic Soc.
Servs., Inc., 509 U.S. 43, 57 n.18 (1993). The Supreme
Court has outlined a two-prong ripeness test for claims
involving government takings of property. Williamson Cty
Reg'l Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S.
172, 194 (1985); Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield v.
City of Springfield, 724 F.3d 78, 92 (1st Cir. 2013)
(stating "[a] special category of ripeness
doctrine" applies to Takings Clause claims) (quoting 13B
Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure §
3532.1.1). Under Williamson County, a federal
takings claim is not ripe until: (1) the regulating agency
"has reached a final decision regarding the application
of the regulations to the property at issue, " and (2)
the plaintiff has sought compensation for the taking through
the procedures provided by the state. 473 U.S. at 186, 194.
The second prong constitutes the so-called state litigation
rule, which prohibits a plaintiff from "simultaneously
bring[ing] a claim for compensation under state law and a
claim under the Takings Clause in federal court; rather the
plaintiff must first pursue his state-law claim for
compensation." Sansotta v. Town of Nags Head,
724 F.3d 533, 544 (4th Cir. 2013).