Attorneys will make their case Tuesday over the price of Rollover Pass, a popular fishing spot on Bolivar Peninsula at the center of a fight since the state moved to fill it in seven years ago.
In January, the county commissioners court voted to acquire about 16 acres around Rollover Pass, which is owned by the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club. The Texas General Land Office has pushed for closing the pass, which was created through a public-private partnership and dredged by the state in 1954, arguing it contributes to beach erosion and alters the estuarine system in Galveston Bay. The club and the Gilchrist Community Association have fought the closure since state lawmakers in 2009 appropriated about $6 million to fill in the pass.
While the hearing is largely procedural, the club will argue the unique piece of land is worth substantially more than the county’s offer of about $1 million, attorney Charles Irvine said. A firm hired by the club appraised the value of the land at $3.3 million.
The hearing, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Galveston County Courthouse, 722 Moody Ave., will be before three special commissioners appointed by County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Barbara Roberts. To be qualified, the special commissioners must be county land owners without an interest in the case. After attorneys make their arguments, the special commissioners determine a price and the government places the money in an account, similar to an escrow, during the court proceedings.
The club plans to appeal the award by the special commissioners in order to fight eminent domain in court, Irvine said.
“It’s a little un-Texan to condemn an individual’s property for a park,” Irvine said.
Under an agreement with the county, the state will build a public park, including a pavilion with restroom and shower facilities, a bait shop, visitor center, bird observation tower and fish-cleaning station. The land office will pay for the land, fishing pier and park; the county would be responsible for operating and maintaining the facilities, according to the agreement.
The county chose Houston-based law firm Baker Donelson to represent it in the litigation, but the state will pay for the costs. Attorney Ken McKay has been assigned the case.
“You want to be judicious and not offer too much,” he said. “At the same time, you want to be fair and offer something of a fair value.”
Whatever the special commissioners decide Tuesday, it’s almost assured the drawn-out fight will continue.
“How do you value Rollover Pass?” said Ted Vega, president of the club. “There’s really no value. You leave it as a Texas treasure, and you spend the money to improve it.”