When Neighbors Make a Fence: Driveway Showdown in Missouri City

What are these Campbell Construction Company workers doing? Just building a fence down aways on Barron Ln. from their Missouri City office — in order to block the driveway belonging to their neighbor, Cesar Larias. Owner Jeff Campbell ordered the fence built after Larias refused to pay a $50 monthly fee to access his own garage.

Ten years ago, Campbell bought several parcels — one of which apparently includes Larias’s driveway and most of his front yard — from a tax auction. How’d they come up for sale? Channel 2 reporter Stephen Dean explains:

Court documents reviewed by Local 2 Investigates show that the original landowner who developed the entire neighborhood had divided off several of the strips of land in question, hoping to sell them separately someday if the government expanded Hillcroft Street down through the subdivision. That expansion never happened.

The original landowner died and Fort Bend County ended up selling the parcels of subdivided land at an auction on the courthouse steps because no one was paying taxes on those parcels anymore.

Until Campbell asked him and several neighbors to start paying a fee to access their own properties, Larias had no idea that his driveway and front yard did not belong to his family’s homestead. Alas, such appears to be the case.

Asked if he has considered selling the land back to the homeowners, Campbell said, “Yeah, but the amount they want to give for it, I don’t want to sell it for that. You see the situation that I’m in?”

Campbell insisted he’s not trying to gouge the neighbors or force them from their homes, although he admitted he may want to expand his nearby construction business.

“Well, my decision was to have them pay something to use it,” said Campbell. “I’ve been really above and beyond fair about it. I’m not trying to hurt these people.”

He admitted that it may appear heavy-handed for him to have placed a Dumpster across the driveway when the Larios family stopped paying for access.

Wait! How’d you reporter dudes find out about the Dumpster?


Uh . . . maybe it was the aerial view on Google Maps?

View Larger Map

Larias’s home backs up to the Fort Bend Tollway. The photo at the top of this story was taken yesterday, apparently by Larias or his attorney, Anthony Bannwart, who rushed it off along with an emergency petition to District Court Judge Jim Shoemake. The judge — who back in August had ordered both sides to take no further action until he had issued a ruling — was not happy to learn of it, and granted a temporary restraining order and injunction:

His order bars Campbell from contacting or harassing any neighbors, and it bars him from blocking any access to the disputed land. It also forbids him from trying to sell the disputed land while the case is pending.

Another court hearing is set for Nov. 23, when the judge will rule on what happens next on the broader question of land ownership.

And what about the fence?

After Thursday’s ruling was issued, Campbell’s employees were still working on the fence until they saw a Local 2 Investigates camera crew. They then packed up and left and Campbell was not seen on the site.

Photo: Plaintiffs’ petition (PDF)

21 Comment

  • Wow, this Campbell guy sure looks like a jerk. That Judge is not going to be happy at that hearing on the 23rd. Way to shoot yourself in the foot.

  • This happens a lot outside of town! As Houston continues to grow into previously rural areas, developers come across parcels without clear deeds. It’s the “Whose right-of-way is this?” game.
    There were some Plantations and ‘company towns’ around here which closed up, packed up and left, resulting in families with property, but no clear Title.
    Also, some landlocked parcels were developed & took right-of-way privileges from surrounding land. But without consistent usage, some users may have lost access…
    It’s complicated. And very ‘CSI’ish.

  • You have to wonder who Ceasar Larias bought his property from and whether there was a proper closing complete with a survey.

    Something is wrong here although this was once a rural area and so abstracts are often convoluted along with the surveys.

    As for access, I think there’s a state law about restricting right-of-way access between two properties which Jeff Campbell is probably in serious violation of.

    No doubt Jeff Campbell is another “bubba” who thinks “bubbas rule.”

    Until a judge rules. Of course the judge could be a “bubba” as well. Smart people avoid Ft. Bend County altogether. Mainly because of the “bubbas.”

  • The homeowner, after a lot of legal fees, would get an easement by necessity in court. Along with the easement comes the duty to maintain the easement so it does not go in to disrepair.

  • Matt Mystery, there are many flavors of bubba within the Houston area. By my count, there are the Gulf Coast Bubbas (Chambers, Galveston, Brazoria Counties), the Old Plantation Bubbas (Brazoria, Ft. Bend Counties), the Katy Prairie Bubbas (Waller, Harris Counties), the Transitional Bubbas (Montgomery, Grimes Counties) along the divide between central Texas and the entirety of the deep south, and the well-publicized often-misunderstood Deep East Texas Bubbas (Montgomery, Liberty Counties).
    There’s no escaping them. We’re surrounded. And they’re our catchment area for domestic in-migration.
    Having said all that, Bubba sociology is more complex than you might think. The successful Bubbas are purportedly god-fearing men, and that can mean that they come down mercilessly on suspected neer-do-wells or that they’re forgiving of repentant lost souls. The partisan divides in individual beliefs still manifest themselves, as in any western society…just somewhat differently.

  • At least the homeowner will have the consolation of knowing that a construction business is unlikely to survive the credit crunch which will likely go one for a long time. Maybe then he can buy the parcel out of bankruptcy court or at a tax sale.

  • Here’s hoping that Jeff Campbell’s blatant greed puts Campbell Construction right out of business. I mean, WHO would do business with this jerk-off? Perhaps then he’ll understand the meaning of penny-wise and pound-foolish. Or that if you’re a greedy, dumb bastard you should be flushed like the toilet you are.

  • I think our prejudices are showing :)

  • Reality is reality. You can take the “bubba” out of the trailer but you can’t take the trailer out of the “bubba.”

  • How did Mr. Lara close on this property without a clear title. The mortgage company should be real happy about this.

  • How did Mr. Lara close on this property without a clear title. The mortgage company should be real happy about this.

    Who knows. I suspect there wasn’t clear title but no one knew it. Rural land usually requires an abstract as well as a survey. Often a previous, incorrect, survey is used. It happens. There are various provisions to protect unsuspecting buyers in these circumstances but it can be a lengthy and expensive process involving lawsuit. It’s not a matter of just filing a new survey. No one should ever close on land that was once rural without checking the survey against the abstract unless it is a large subdivision where there is some assumption that the developer made sure the boundaries were clear per abstract. Even then, if you’re on the edge of the subdivision, there can be problems.

  • And “clear title” itself can be misleading. As buyers in recent years have found when they bought a home that abutted Beltway 8 in the Briargrove Park subdivision and had to sign an “acknowledgement” as I believe it was called that their home encroached on easement. In some cases by several feet. Most buyers assume Center Point or Comcast is never going to use the easement. But they could. And they may or may not pay market value in the condemnation.

  • And the markers sometimes are removed and fences appear to correctly placed and the oak tree appears to be the original oak tree. The markers are the biggie. We have them here in Houston. Sometimes they’re removed. Allegations were made that some were removed when Houston Renaissance had “its” survey of Fourth Ward done. The things that go on at City Hall are pretty unbelievable. What’s really unbelievable is that they get away with it.

  • “The things that go on at City Hall are pretty unbelievable. What’s really unbelievable is that they get away with it.”

    Are you saying city hall is full of Bubbas now too?

  • Just look at Google’s map view, you can see numerous, confused, super-imposed lot & easement lines around Lara’s home.
    What a mess.


  • Are you saying city hall is full of Bubbas now too?

    Good god no. We ran the “bubbas” out of City Hall a long time ago. These are upscale jerks at City Hall. Everyone thinks Bob Lanier is a “bubba” but he’s a “big daddy” who just wants the “bubbas” to think he’s one.

  • Where is the property-rights-trump-all gang? They need to comment here in favor of Jeff Campbell’s right to do with his legal property whatever he wants, and to oppose gummint interference (in the form of activist judge Jim Shoemake). C’mon dudes–you know who you are. Speak up!

  • They need to comment here in favor of Jeff Campbell’s right to do with his legal property whatever he wants….

    It isn’t his legal property if someone didn’t pay attention to the abstracts when they surveyed and subdivided and replatted. In Texas courts, abstracts rule. One of the reasons why we have title insurance in Texas.

  • Where is the property-rights-trump-all gang?

    I would consider myself part of that gang but this is wrong and I’ve always thought it was illegal too. When I was a kid we had some property up in East Texas that was cut off from roads by another property. The other property owner gave us a key to his gate to let us onto our land. My father always told me that he was legally required to do that.

  • Yep, there are statutory easements for landlocked properties in Texas.

    Obviously he ignored that, but what the hell was he planning on doing with those small pieces of land in front of those properties, anyhow? I want to hear home tell everyone what his long term plan was, or if it was just to extort the homeowners for as long as possible.

  • Its one thing to buy the land at auction and hope to sell it when the expansion of the came along. The expansion never did take place and Campbell lost his bet. But to do what he did. . . well, that just makes him . . . an asshole!