To keep the Folsom Bridge project on track, last week the Folsom City Council certified environmental documents and voted to begin eminent domain proceedings on two private parcels.
It was the latter decision that captured the most attention, however. Representatives of one of the property owners suggested litigation may lie in the city's future.
Attorney Steven P. Belzer, representing Anthony and Mary Sue Cardoso, trustees of the Capital Investment Trust and owners of more than eight acres of vacant property at East Natoma Street and Folsom Dam Road, questioned the city appraisal process that determined the value of his clients' land.
"They're not trying to stop this project or slow it down. They just want to be treated fairly," Belzer told council members. "Your offer does not constitute fair treatment."
Public works director Rich Lorenz said earlier that negotiations with property owners, including the Demmon Family, owners of a 200-unit multi-family apartment complex on Folsom-Auburn Road, had not resulted in a final agreement, necessitating the start of eminent domain proceedings.
"We are at a point where we have not reached a final agreement with either property owner," said Lorenz, adding the city had received a counter offer from the Demmon family that day.
Purchase offers to both parties went out in June.
Lorenz told the Telegraph on Monday that future negotiations with the property owners could still occur.
"Some property owners want to let the process work itself out in the courts," he said. "We would prefer to work with the property owners to reach an agreed upon arrangement."
Belzer indicated during the Sept. 12 meeting which direction his clients may be leaning.
"I don't know what I'd do if I were sitting in your seat," he told council members. "I may adopt it and let the court deal with it."
Whichever way it goes, Lorenz said the project remains on the fast track for completion by 2008.
"We can go either way and keep the project on schedule, but we would prefer to work with the property owners," he said.
The city needs to acquire 5.86 acres of the Cardoso property to realign the intersection of East Natoma Street and Folsom Dam Road, and 9,564 square feet of land traversing the northeast portion of the Demmon property.
The latter will facilitate the construction of a new sound wall. A city staff report says the right of way acquisition at the Demmon property will not directly impact any of the existing apartment structures.
The city is also set to acquire 14 acres of state land located mostly on the grounds of Folsom Prison, following Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signing of a bill authorizing the state Department of General Services sale.
The bridge project became a priority for the city and the region in 2003, when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation closed Folsom Dam Road citing national security reasons.
According to the city, the closure has resulted in increased congestion, business disruption and closures, increased traffic accidents and stressed the existing emergency services infrastructure.
Even with plans to reopen the road for "restricted access" as part of the project to raise Folsom Dam 7.5 feet and improve flood storage capacity behind the dam, a permanent bridge is still seen as a necessity.
Folsom CA Telegraph: http://folsomtelegraph.com