The recent rain has left puddles of standing water on the baseball field at 1025 Judiway Street, where grass and weeds have grown on parts of the soil from the interior of the field and from the nests of birds have formed on the net which prevents foul balls from encroaching on adjacent property as well as the road.
The canoes and the outer field fence are also showing signs of age and prolonged use, as are the wooden bleachers and the announcer’s small box behind the home plate. They would all need updating or repairing, and a property strewn with garbage and other debris late Tuesday afternoon could have been cleaned up.
Despite the dilapidated state of the land, it remains a precious commodity, so much so that a pair of local youth organizations have been locked in a year-long court battle over the right to call it their own. The Heights Lions Club have claimed ownership of the property and want to sell it to a developer, while the Oaks Dads’ Club (ODC), which has leased the land for over 20 years and claims to have used it for at least 40 years old, also claims to be its rightful owner by adverse possession.
“It’s super sad,” said Heights Lions Club president David Hite, “that one is trying to defraud the other.”
The dispute began in June 2020, when Hite wrote a letter to the ODC saying that its annual lease would not be renewed at the end of the year and that the youth sports organization had to vacate the property and withdraw its property before the start of 2021. The Lions Club had received offers to purchase the 2.7-acre land, Hite said, and discovered that it was technically owned by an entity called Oak Forest Lions Club Youth Stadium Inc., which was affiliated with the former Oak Forest Lions Club, which merged with the Heights organization in 2014.
But the company that owned the field dissolved and lost its charter with the state of Texas in the 1980s, Hite said. So, in an effort to clarify title to the property so that it could be sold, Hite said the Heights Lions Club hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit against Oak Forest Lions Club Youth Stadium Inc. in district court. state in January 2020.
This legal process and Hite’s subsequent letter prompted ODC to intervene in the lawsuit last July, according to Sean Jez, former chairman of the ODC board and lawyer for the organization. Jez claims that the Heights Lions Club leased the land from the ODC under false pretenses and that the ODC should assume ownership of the property as a non-profit organization that has historically used and maintained the land and has intend to operate it as a facility for local youth.
“The Heights Lions Club is trying to say they own this property, but they don’t,” Jez said. “… When Oaks Dads’ Club rented the property without quotes, we felt it belonged to Oak Forest Lions Club, when in fact it was owned by another entity which was dissolved by the State of Texas. . ”
ODC applied for a temporary injunction last December to prevent him from being evicted until the property issue can be settled by the court, and has also filed default motions and summary judgments in his favor. All three motions were dismissed by Judge Latosha Lewis Payne, according to Harris County court records.
Court records also show that Payne is in the process of appointing an ad-litem attorney to represent the interests of Oak Forest Lions Club Youth Stadium Inc., as a representative for the company has not been identified. Hite and Jez both said the case was at a standstill until the ad-litem lawyer was appointed and fulfilled his role.
Fair or silly?
Hite, who called the denial of the injunction “huge” for the Heights Lions Club case, said he ended up evicting the ODC in late 2020 and had since rented the property to the Houston Sports and Social Club. , which operates recreational activities. adult leagues, at a rental rate of $ 4,000 per month. The ODC had paid the Heights Lions Club $ 4,000 a year to rent the facility, according to court records, and Jez said the ODC had sublet the land to the Houston Sports and Social Club.
Hite said the sublet agreement violated the terms of the most recent lease between the Heights Lions Club and the ODC, which he said was drafted by Jez in 2019. From 1996 to 2019, Hite said that the ODC had paid annual rent of $ 2,500.
“You can’t sublet the property, which they did, and they were making a lot of money on it,” Hite said.
Jez argued that since the field was owned by a nonprofit for the benefit of the community, Texas law requires that the property be transferred to another nonprofit and that the use of the property remains. the same. He said the Heights Lions Club’s stated intention to sell the property to a developer would go against the spirit of this precedent if it were determined to be the rightful owner.
The pitch has dimensions adapted to the level of the Pony League, which is intended for players of middle school age.
“It’s a big loss not having this pitch,” Jez said. “Older boys need a big field to train and play. They can’t go anywhere for a field of this size.
According to Hite, however, there is no longer a public need for the domain in a community that has grown exponentially over the past few decades. He said the Heights Lions Club had discovered that there were 30 courts of comparable size within a 3 mile radius of the field on Judiway. This spring, Jez said ODC’s Pony League teams used the organization’s sports complex near the northeast corner of Rena Street and Bingle Road.
Hite also said the sale of the Judiway property, which has a market value of nearly $ 2.4 million, according to the Harris County Appraisal District, would be a boon to the Heights Lions Club mission. Hite said the organization’s main charitable initiative is funding ophthalmologist visits and the purchase of eyeglasses for children in the Heights area who need them, and the Lions Club is also sponsoring local children with disabilities to that they can attend Texas Lions Camp in the summer.
Hite said the Lions Club has an offer of $ 3.1 million for the ownership of a developer. He also said the organization spent more than $ 100,000 on the legal dispute with the ODC.
“If we’re going to make this sale, we can provide over 1,000 pairs of glasses a year to students in the Heights,” Hite said.
First and foremost, Payne must agree with the Heights Lions Club’s claim that he is the legal owner of the land. And although she has denied the petitions filed so far by the ODC, Jez said: “There really hasn’t been any substantive decision as to who is the rightful owner of the property or who will end up. with the property at this point. “
Hite said he believed the dispute was more about money than serving youth in the Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest areas.
“What is to say is that this is a $ 3 million property,” Hite said. “They’re just trying to steal it.”