9/11/2007

Fight seems imminent: Tracy CA Press, 8/7/07

Tracy is prepared to use eminent domain to take land from so-far unwilling homeowners so Grant Line Road can be expanded

By Rob L. Wagner

Tracy is considering starting eminent domain proceedings against a couple that balked at a $50,000 offer for a portion of their property.

Stephen Lum and Margarita Ruiz own a small home at 81 E. Grant Line Road. The city considers East Grant Line Road between Parker Avenue and MacArthur Drive a major arterial street that requires two lanes in each direction, according to a city report.

A portion of Grant Line Road in front of the Lum and Ruiz home narrows to a single lane in each direction with no curb, gutters or sidewalk. The area creates a traffic bottleneck, according to the report.

The city is seeking a 1,750-square-foot right-of-way and a 210-square-foot temporary construction easement on the 8,750-square-foot parcel.

The City Council at 7 tonight will consider whether to start with eminent domain proceedings to buy the property via court action. The council meets in the council chambers at 333 Civic Center Plaza.

Lum and Ruiz were out of town Monday and unavailable for comment.

Zabih Zaca, senior civil engineer for the city, said the gravel portion at the front of the property and "about half the front lawn" will be taken via eminent domain. The construction easement will be returned to the owners once the widening of the street is completed.

The city is finishing or has reached agreements with property owners to purchase 13 other parcels along Grant Line, Zaca said.

Negotiations with Lum and Ruiz started a year ago. The city offered Lum and Ruiz $50,000 for the property and offered to pay up to $5,000 for the couple to hire an independent appraiser.

The city sent several notices to Lum and Ruiz regarding the property and received one letter Feb. 22. According to the letter, the couple wanted the city to accept their independent appraiser as the fair market value of the property. The city responded that it would consider the couple’s appraisal in conjunction with the city’s own independent appraisal. The city hired an independent appraiser to examine the property.

"We are spending public funds, and the appraisal must be in the best use of those funds," Zaca said.

The couple was notified in a June 29 letter from the city attorney that the city could begin eminent domain proceedings.

Zaca said the $50,000 offer is good "up until the last minute" before eminent domain is effective.


Tracy CA Press: http://tracypress.com