Lawsuit between two cities an ongoing dispute

Published 5:03 pm Friday, November 18, 2016

The current lawsuit between the cities of Port Arthur, the plaintiff, and Bridge City, the defendant, over boundary disputes actually dates backs years.

The text of the lawsuit filed on June 26, 2015 in the 128th District Court in Orange County reads “This is a case arising from Bridge City’s recent attempts to annex additional alnd and extend its extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) to include parts of the Neches River and the Sabine-Neches Canal that belong to Port Arthur. Bridge City’s recent actions are invalid and amount to nothing more than a land grab.”

The background goes on to state the ETJ was annexed by Port Arthur in 1913 to establish a navigation territory.

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“Despite the fact that port Arthur’s annexation of the area in question has never been repealed or challenged, Bridge City now seeks to annex this same area and expand its ETJ to presumably increase its tax base to include property on Stewts Island in the Sabine-Neches Canal, on which an industrial facility was expected to be constructed. Bridge City seeks to annex this area despite the fact that it is unable to provide basic utilities and services to the area.”


Port Arthur history

From 1950 through 1961, Port Arthur adopted a series of nine annexation ordinances that established its relevant corporate boundary as being the centerline of the Neches River and included portions of the limited navigation territory.

Since 1961, the navigation territory extended along 2,500 feet east of the centerline of the Neches River in Orange County.

“The Municipal Annexation Act established that cities with population in excess of 50,000 but less than 100,000 shall have an ETJ of three and one-half miles from its corporate boundaries,” it read. “Port Arthur’s population since 1960 has been above 57,000 which fixes Port Arthur’s ETJ at three and one-half miles beyond the corporate limits of the city.”

“Now, for the purely self-interested purpose of controlling prime industrial development property along the Neches River, Bridge City is ignoring and trespassing upon Port Arthur’s long established boundaries.”


Bridge City history

Bridge City was formed in 1970 and explicitly ratified the boundaries of Port Arthur.

“In fact, a specific condition of Port Arthur’s resolution consenting to the incorporation of Bridge City was that nothing in the consent was to be construed as giving Bridge City any extraterritorial rights in Port Arthur’s ETJ,” the lawsuit stated.

Bridge City sent several requests to Port Arthur over several years, all of which Port Arthur denied.

“In doing so, Bridge City explicitly acknowledged the boundaries of Port Arthur’s ETJ,” it read. “In 1988, and in accordance with the old saying ‘no good deed goes unpunished,’ Bridge City adopted two ordinances and purposed to annex land that was squarely within Port Arthur’s ETJ. Port Arthur brought suit against Bridge City, and the ordinances were declared void. The Beaumont Court of Appeals upheld this ruling. Bridge City is now seeking to again acquire property that it is clearly not entitled to.”

In 1999, Bridge City again attempted to expand its boundaries. State Rep. Ron Lewis of Orange County pushed a bill through the Texas Legislature that specifically targeted Port Arthur by purportedly limiting the ETJ of certain municipalities that are located on or near a navigable stream.

On August 12, 2014, Bridge City passed Ordinance 2014-09 purportedly annexing additional land and extending its ETJ.

“Port Arthur attempted to contact Bridge City regarding its proposed new ETJ prior to Ordinance 2014-09 being enacted,” it read. “However, Bridge City refused to amend its ordinance or its ETJ.”

“As a result, Port Arthur had no choice but to institute this litigation and ask that the portion of Ordinance 2014-09 extending Bridge City’s ETJ be declared void, as have Bridge City’s past efforts to improperly annex other areas.”

In 2014, the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation began discussion with a third party to construct an industrial facility on Stewts Island when Bridge City passed Ordinance 2014-09 to annex part of Stewts Island.

“In light of Ordinance 2014-09, the negotiations for the industrial facility on Stewts Island were put on hold. As a result, Port Arthur had no choice but to institute this litigation and ask that the portion of Ordinance 2014-09 extending Bridge City’s ETJ be declared void and of no effect,” it read.

David Ball: 409721-2427