CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County has been accused of violating the terms it agreed to when it was given land that established Padre Balli Park.
It's an area that includes nearly 400 acres gifted to the county by the Jones Family and includes paved campsites open year-round.
Now, according to a cease and desist letter sent to the county and dated February 22, that family is claiming the county has failed to keep portions of the park public and in doing so a reverter clause kicks in.
Nueces County Commissioner, Precinct 1, Joe A. Gonzalez told KRIS 6 News that clause means the county could lose the land and it could return to the family.
"They can take back the land. And where do we, what happens to our camping ground?" He said.
The allegations, according to the letter from the attorney for the Jones Family, is the "recent, major shift in the County's operations of Padre Balli Park in how the County is handling camping."
It states that counter to the County Attorney's prior guidance that the park only allow camping for three nights, four days, the county is allowing campers to stay for weeks and months.
"These violations alone are enough under the law to trigger the Restrictive Deed's automatic reverter clause taking ownership away from the county," Patrick L. Reznick, attorney with Braun & Gresham writes in the letter.
An additional allegation involves a private developer who was required by the federal government to mitigate a nearby development with a wetland.
Reznick claims that in 2020 Nueces County allowed the developer access to the park in order to satisfy that requirement. He says that violated the requirement to keep the park public and raised concerns about how the County's decisions impact the family's retained mineral rights.
Two Nueces County Commissioners say they were unaware of this agreement with the private developer, which included the execution of a deed restriction.
"They wanted to do something right, and that something right was to do something at the park," Gonzalez said. "Of course, that was against the deed restrictions. And that was signed by the County Judge."
The letter from Reznick also alleging Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales signed the deed restriction without any apparent authority of the commissioner's court.
KRIS 6 News wanted to talk with Canales about the letter and the potential it could have on the county, but she was unavailable for comment.
She did provide this statement: "Nueces County has engaged legal counsel to respond to the Jones' family's long-standing concerns about use of certain county parkland. I am confident all will engage in good faith discussions. In support of the process, I have no further comment."
Gonzalez says he is concerned that commissioners were not consulted before deed restrictions were potentially given to a private developer.
"As a county, by now, we should know not to do certain things and jeopardize the loss of that park," he said.
KRIS 6 News has reached out to Reznick and will provide an update once we hear back.