City to use eminent domain for rail spur: Victorville (CA) Daily Press, 9/17/05

By Miguel Gonzalez

The [Victorville CA] City Council is set to vote next week on exercising its power of eminent domain to acquire five parcels that will be used for construction of a rail spur to Southern California Logistics Airport.

But not without a good fight first, according to residents and business owners affected by the construction.

For Victorville the construction of the rail spur has been touted as the final piece of the puzzle that will make the Southern California Logistics Airport a full intermodal location for companies that will bring thousands of jobs to the area.

Construction of the rail spur is slated to start construction by early 2006, according to city spokeswoman Yvonne Hester.

The five parcels in question are owned by three different people. One is Jeff Himmelrick, who on Friday said the city is trying to take his land without any compensation.

"They want 634 feet of my property and they don't feel they should have to pay anything. Now tell me, how is that fair?" Himmelrick said Friday.

Half a mile south of Himmelrick, a housing complex is almost vacant after the city reached agreements with residents living directly in the path of the rail construction. Richard Rogaischio rents a house in the same complex and said he has not moved because he thinks the city is trying to cheat him out of money.

"I don't want to leave, and the city is being as cheap as possible," Rogaischio said of the $14,000 offer.

A judge will set the prices the city must pay for the land it acquires under eminent domain.

The project also includes construction of an underpass under National Trails Highway, just before Turner Road, and the laying of rail at a cost of $25 million, according to Hester.

Deputy City Attorney Bill Medlen said all offers for the land have been made based on appraisals. Medlen added that because of the tight schedule for construction, the issue has been brought to City Council.

"If council decides to vote for eminent domain, it would allow us to get possession of the properties so we can start building," Medlen said. "Nobody is going to be displaced here, and we are negotiating with fair prices."

Victorville Mayor Mike Rothschild said that as many as 12,000 SCLA jobs could depend on how fast rail is constructed.

"I've always said that for the rail spur I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on eminent domain because it would benefit all 400,000 residents of the High Desert," Rothschild said. "We are offering more than fair price for the properties, and we can't cheat anybody because the courts set the prices we pay for land."

Himmelrick said he will attend City Council on Tuesday to plead his case.

"I bought that land three years ago for $108,000, I have paid taxes, and I am not going to give it away."

Rothschild said that Himmelrick had his facts wrong because it was impossible that "we could get away with not paying for a property."

Rogaischio said that although his boxes are packed up and he knows he will have to move soon, he will hold out until the city offers what he considers a fair price.

"I know this is coming but not without a fight," he said.

Victorville Daily Press: www.vvdailypress.com