City has rights to land and business through eminent domain: Ventura County (CA) Star, 4/7/06

A Superior Court judge ruled today that two Oxnard [California] businesses cannot stop the city from buying them out through eminent domain to make way for a Highway 101 interchange project.

The city has been condemning properties and businesses near Rice Avenue at Highway 101 since 1997 for a future project to improve the interchange.

Under eminent domain laws, a government agency can force property owners and businesses to sell land and establishments at fair market value. The government must prove the project is necessary for the public good.

At a court hearing today, Mark Fox, a Los Angeles attorney representing Summit Pools and Spas West, asked why the city should be allowed to push out his clients now when it doesn't have the money to finish the project — and might not for years.

As of December, the city was $25 million short on the project's $33.7 million construction tab — a price that keeps rising because of nationwide increases in construction labor and material costs.

June Ailin, a Los Angeles attorney hired by Oxnard, countered that the city can't go out to bid for contracts until it first acquires all the necessary properties — even if it doesn?t have all construction costs and financing nailed down.

Judge Ken Riley sided with the city, saying it has the right to the land and businesses before it begins contracting the work out.

Oxnard can take possession of the businesses on May 1. Negotiations on the value of the businesses are ongoing.

Ventura County Star: http://www.venturacountystar.com