Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Natural gas pipeline to cut through family's property again

TURKEY CREEK — Kathryn Dixon sometimes sits in her rocking chair on her back porch and catches cool breezes that sweep through a lowland grove of live oaks and maples. Occasionally, she hears the sounds of lowing cows on a nearby pasture. She used to enjoy the view. Now, she can't sit on her porch without getting angry. Now she sees what happened to that grove, how a 1999 natural gas pipeline project slashed through it, upsetting the delicate ecology and killing many of the trees. And Florida Gas Transmission, or FGT, is back, planning a $2.4 billion project that will place almost 500 miles of additional pipeline next to the one the company laid in 1999. Part of it will go right through the middle of Dixon's 34-acre property, cutting again through those trees. But this time, plans call for the line to run about 100 feet from Dixon's back porch. Construction could begin in June.

"They told me, 'No, we're gone, you'll never see us again,' " Kathryn Dixon said, her voice dropping off as she recalled conversations with gas company officials more than decade ago. "And I believed it. If I used my mind…"

Dixon, 86, lives on the property in what has become a family compound with her husband and adult daughter's family.

"At the very least, they feel duped," said Lisa Wilcox, the Dixons' lawyer.

Clyde and Kathryn Dixon bought the initial 20 acres of their property back in the early 1970s, continually adding onto it over the years. They established a dairy. In the early 1980s, their daughter Suzanne got married, and they set her up in a house out on the back 5 acres.

In 1992, the Dixons moved out of a little farmhouse on the property into a custom-built wood frame home, designed and built by Clyde Dixon himself. And all seemed well.

Fast forward seven years. A land agent from FGT showed up late at night at the Dixons' door, telling Kathryn Dixon about this little project going through the back of their property. The agent told the couple it wouldn't affect them at all, and they didn't need a lawyer, Wilcox said.

FGT, which is part of a larger Houston-based company, was adding onto what would eventually become a 5,000-mile natural gas pipeline that pumps natural gas from Tivoli, a small community in southeast Texas, along the Gulf Coast to South Florida.

The Dixons signed easement papers and, in return, received $3,500. It was compensation for land that could not be improved or used by the Dixons once the pipeline was laid.

They thought that was it. It wasn't.

Construction crews arrived at all hours, rumbling up their dirt driveway. Loud, whirring construction equipment overcast their days. The crews cut fences to get onto the property, which let loose some of the Dixons' cattle.

And the pipeline went down, not at the edge of the property like Dixons thought, but right between their backyard and their daughter's front yard. This dissects their property, decreasing its value and increasing worries of an explosive accident that could destroy either of their houses, according to the Dixons.

"It's your pride to own your home and have your kids nearby," Kathryn Dixon said. "It makes you mad."

In 2008, FGT came back, proposing the additional 36-inch wide pipeline. This time, the easement would take out part of a nursery with 2,500 live oaks in the elder Dixons' backyard. The company offered $50,000 for an acre and a half.

"At that time, I decided to hire an attorney," Clyde Dixon, 86, said.

Legal wrangling ensued. Accusations of dirty dealing flew between both parties. The Dixons spent about $50,000 fighting the case. Wilcox finally won the right for the Dixons to be notified before FGT crews came on site. Finally, the dispute developed into an eminent domain case in November. In February, FGT won the right in Hillsborough County Circuit Court to take part of the Dixons' property for their project.

Florida Gas Transmission spokesman John Barnett said he couldn't speak specifically to the Dixons' case. But he said the company has "worked with a number of landowners, trying to create a route that would have the least impact on homes, the environment and existing structures."

There aren't any specific rules on how close a pipeline can be built next to a home, but the company does try to have a 50-foot right of way, Barnett said. And regular checkups on the line should assuage concerns of an explosion.

"Pipeline transportation is the safest transportation," he said.

Clyde Dixon knows he can't stop the pipeline. But its existence now threatens his homeowner's insurance. Aside from that, he can't develop the property as he wished, which threatens future income. He now just wants fair compensation, a figure he puts at $100,000.

His wife doesn't trust that the company won't try a third time to disrupt her life.

"What are they going to do in another 10 years," she said. "Take another bite out of us?"

Jessica Raynor can be reached at [email protected]

Natural gas pipeline to cut through family's property again 03/11/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 5:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida's 'Turtle God' is ailing. What happens to his remarkable collection of specimens?


    OVIEDO — In a small town about five miles from the University of Central Florida there stands a two-story yellow house built in the 1920s. A modest sign mounted on the wall next to the front door says, "Chelonian Research Institute."

    The main room at the Chelonian Institute in Oviedo Florida. - Peter Pritchard sounds British but he's lived in Florida for five decades, running the Chelonian Institute in Oviedo Florida, which holds the world's largest collection of turtle specimens (some of them bones or shells, some of them live turtles or tortoises). Time magazine has declared him a hero of the planet and other turtle experts say he is to turtles what Dian Fossey was to gorillas. He's been instrumental in helping other species, too, including the Florida panther. He has traveled the world studying turtles.
  2. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program


    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]
  3. Top 5 at Noon: Police hunt killer 'terrorizing' Seminole Heights; Land swap could help bring Rays to Tampa


    Here are the top stories on this afternoon.

    Aerial photo of Ybor City centered around Centro Ybor and 7th Avenue. Hoping to assemble the land for a ballpark near Ybor City and the Channel District, Hillsborough County officials could government property with landowners there.
  4. McDonald's soft serve in Florida is made with handshakes and happy cows


    Floridians licked nine million McDonald's vanilla cones last year.

    Calves play with a rubber toy at the Milking R Dairy in Okeechobee, FL. Owners Sutton Rucks, Jr., and his wife Kris Rucks sell their milk to SouthEast Dairies cooperative, Edward Coryn of Dairy Mix in St. Petersburg buys it, transforms it into soft-serve ice cream base, and sells it to all the McDonald's. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  5. Florida football has become something to be endured, not enjoyed


    The Jim McElwain era at Florida is something to be endured, not enjoyed.

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Khairi Clark (54) leaves the field after the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. The Florida Gators lost to the Texas A&M Aggies 17-16 MONICA HERNDON   |   Times