Downtown advisory committee offers eminent domain recommendations: Moorpark (CA) Acorn, 6/16/06

By Sylvie Belmond

The Project Area Committee (PAC) completed its mission last week, asking city [of Moorpark] officials to limit eminent domain power to commercial and industrial properties and exclude residences.

The committee was formed last year to review and make comments on an amendment that will reinstate the agency's ability to use eminent domain.

The Moorpark Redevelopment Agency had indicated plans to include some residential properties in the amendment, which caused concern among downtown residents. Homeowners showed up in large numbers during the PAC committee meetings in recent months, expressing concern that they might lose their modest family homes for the benefit of developers and newcomers.

The redevelopment agency had the power to use eminent domain to acquire private property for public use without an owner's blessing until 2001, when the authority expired after being valid for a 12-year period. Now the city is trying to reestablish the authority so it can proceed with plans to revitalize the downtown area.

To appease residents, the committee decided the agency should have only the authority it had before, which didn't include authority over any residentially-zoned properties, said David Moe, redevelopment agency manager.

"The public told us they don't want the residential properties to be involved," said Dale Whitaker, who predicted the city will probably override the committee's recommendations.

But Moe said the agency is going to take a hard look at the PAC's recommendation and they'll take into consideration the large number of people who attended the meetings.

If the agency doesn't agree with the committee's recommendation and chooses to expand the eminent domain authority to include residences, the issue will ultimately go to the voters, as required by state law.

Moe said the people who attended the meetings were also concerned about an easement plan on Walnut Canyon Road. That matter isn't related to the eminent domain authority that the city is currently reviewing, but a private arrangement between a developer and the property owners. Homeowners must negotiate directly with the Sun Cal developer who's building 110 homes on the east side of Walnut Canyon, Moe said.

Sun Cal must purchase an easement from the property owners on the west side of the road to put in a curb and a gutter before it can move forward with plans to build the homes, Moe said.

Moorpark Acorn: http://www.moorparkacorn.com