Government Took Man’s Land Two Years Ago and Won’t Discuss How He Can Get It Back

Joel Potasznik has not set foot on his property off Dowdy Ferry Road in two years.He hasn’t been there since the county fire marshal padlocked it and hung “no trespassing” signs. The reason? Code violations.Fire Marshall Robert De Los Santos says in court records that he took custody of the 51 acres because it’s littered with old tires, broken appliances, vehicle fluids, and other junk that violates fire and safety codes.Potasznik, 71, says the fire marshal violated his constitutional property rights and won’t give him an opportunity to fix the problems. The Mesquite ophthalmologist is suing in federal court to get it back.“I can’t get on the property to inspect it,” he said. “I can’t get in. That’s the crux of the problem.”Meanwhile, water drains across the property and into the Trinity River whenever it rains, according to a former county environmental crimes investigator.The Dowdy Ferry Road area in rural southeastern Dallas County has long been notorious as a dumping ground for industrial waste, old furniture, auto parts, unwanted animals and even dead bodies. It’s home to sprawling used car lots, clusters of shanties and noisy industrial operations.The Trinity River winds through the area, which is rich in sand, a key ingredient for concrete. Decades ago, mining companies dug deep holes to scoop it out and sell to construction companies. The gravel pits they left behind have essentially turned into wetlands.Potasznik has been slowly filling a large sand pit on his property, near the city of Hutchins, but he says he was not aware of any illegal dumping. His four former tenants, who operated trucking and fill businesses there, were ordered off the property by the fire marshal in September 2015 and have not been allowed back since, he said.Aside from some language in a an administrative search warrant -- the kind used for code violations -- the county hasn’t formally accused Potasznik of any wrongdoing since locking him out. In fact, he says county officials have never contacted him about it.No one associated with the property has been charged with a crime.“I do not know why this happened, to this day,” Potasznik said.Dan Biersdorf, a Minnesota property lawyer who practices in Texas and other states, said governments have to give enough notice before taking the drastic step of seizing someone’s land.“You have to give notice and opportunity to correct it,” said Biersdorf, who handles eminent domain cases.  Continue reading...

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