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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: Tarrant County appeals the trial court’s summary judgment rendered for Jerry Coyel. In three issues, Tarrant County contends that the trial court erred in granting Coyel’s motion for summary judgment. In 1976, Coyel purchased approximately eleven acres of land in Tarrant County, Texas, a portion of which was located in the designated flood plain of Village Creek. Coyel allowed dumping on his property until 1986. In 1978, Tarrant County adopted a flood plain ordinance (the 1978 ordinance) pursuant to the Flood Control and Insurance Act (the 1969 Act). Among other things, the 1978 ordinance required landowners to obtain a permit before filling property located within a flood plain. Tarrant County, Tex., Ordinance 46492, � G (1978). The 1978 ordinance also authorized the county to impose criminal and civil penalties against violators, including injunctive relief. Id. � J. Although Coyel continued to allow the dumping to occur on his property after the 1978 ordinance was enacted, he never obtained the required permit. In 1997, the Texas Legislature enacted ��16.322 and 16.323 of the Texas Water Code (the Code). These provisions specifically authorize certain counties to seek injunctive relief and/or civil penalties against individuals who have violated, are violating, or are threatening to violate the 1969 Act. In 2000, Tarrant County sued Coyel to enforce the 1978 ordinance. Coyel moved for partial summary judgment on the ground that enforcement of the 1978 ordinance would be an unlawful, retroactive enforcement of ��16.322 and 16.323 of the Code because Tarrant County had no authority to seek civil injunctive relief or civil penalties against Coyel until the enactment of these sections in 1997. Therefore, Coyel contended that any violations committed prior to 1997 were not actionable. Tarrant County countered with its own motion for summary judgment alleging that it had the authority to enforce the Code and the 1978 ordinance promulgated pursuant to the 1969 Act. The trial court granted Coyel’s motion for summary judgment and denied Tarrant County’s motion. In its judgment, the trial court found the following: 1. “Tarrant County, Texas cannot enforce Sections 16.322 and 16.323 of the Texas Water Code against [Coyel] for actions that occurred prior to September 1, 1997″; and 2. “prior to September 1, 1997, Tarrant County, Texas did not have statutory authority to impose civil penalties or seek injunctive relief against [Coyel] regarding violation of flood plain regulations.” Tarrant County appealed the summary judgment in favor of Coyel, but did not appeal the trial court’s denial of its own motion for summary judgment. HOLDING: Reversed and remanded. “[L]aws may not operate retroactively to deprive or impair vested substantive rights acquired under existing laws, or create new obligations, impose new duties, or adopt new disabilities in respect to transactions or considerations past.” In Re Tex. Dep’t of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 71 S.W.3d 446 (Tex. App. � Fort Worth 2002, orig. proceeding) (quoting Ex parte Abell, 613 S.W.2d 255 (Tex. 1981) (orig. proceeding)). On the other hand, no litigant has a vested right in a statute or rule that is remedial or procedural in nature and that affects no vested substantive right. Subaru of Am. Inc. v. David McDavid Nissan Inc., 84 S.W.3d 212 (Tex. 2002). “Changes in such statutes or rules are considered remedial in nature and have been held not to violate the provisions of Article 1, sec. 16 of the Constitution” barring the enactment of retroactive laws. If a statute is remedial or procedural in nature, it controls all affected proceedings from the date it becomes law. In enacting ��16.322 and 16.323, the Legislature expressly stated that these statutes do “not change the elements of a violation” under the 1969 Act. Instead, they merely provide an “additional remedy for a violation or threatened violation of [the code].” As such, the court concludes that ��16.322 and 16.323 of the code are remedial in nature. Moreover, application of the code to Coyel does not impair a vested substantive right. Landfill activity in the Village Creek flood plain has been regulated by city ordinance since 1978. The fact that there was no statutory remedy providing for an injunction and civil penalties for unauthorized dumping prior to the passage of ��16.322 and 16.323 did not give Coyel a vested right to continue the unauthorized landfill activity with impunity. At most, Coyel had no more than a mere expectation that the law as it existed when Tarrant County enacted the 1978 ordinance would remain unchanged. A right cannot be considered a vested substantive right unless it is something more than a mere expectation based upon an anticipated continuance of the present general laws. DuPre v. DuPre, 271 S.W.2d 829 (Tex. Civ. App. � Dallas 1954, no writ). The court holds that ��16.322 and 16.323 of the code are remedial in nature and that their application to Coyel does not affect a vested substantive right. OPINION: Cayce, C.J. CONCURRENCE: Dauphinot, J. “I concur in the majority’s judgment. I point out only for the sake of clarity, however, that when Coyel bought the property and first began dumping fill, the record reflects no ordinance or statute limiting his ability to do so. Coyel does not raise a takings claim. The issue before us is limited to the retroactivity of sections 16.322 and 16.323 of the Texas Water Code.”

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