Eminent domain panel wants more details: Ventura County (CA) Star, 5/20/06

By Anna Bakalis

A Moorpark [California] citizen advisory committee reviewing the Redevelopment Agency's wish to reinstate eminent domain says it can't give a recommendation to the City Council without some straight answers.

"We're still flying in the dark," said Chairman Dale Whitaker. "We're getting conflicting information, and I don't know how we can make a recommendation by next month."

Members of the Project Area Committee were visibly frustrated after a slide show presentation by consultant Urban Futures that explained eminent domain, in text and rudimentary graphics, and how it might be applied in Moorpark. About 75 people sat in the audience. A Spanish translation was available through headsets that were distributed.

It was the sixth meeting of the PAC.

"We're no better off today than we were at the first meeting," Whitaker said after the meeting.

The issue of eminent domain — the power of a public agency to forcibly acquire private property for public use — was started last year by city leaders who have long hoped to rejuvenate downtown. The agency's authority to use eminent domain was allowed to lapse in 2001, and city leaders are hoping for a recommendation from the PAC by June 16.

The PAC said there are two main points that are of concern that need to be addressed before they can make a recommendation: One is that city staff members told two members of the committee that there were no plans for a widening of Walnut Canyon Road. But it was found out later that widening is one of the city's top priorities. The other concern for the PAC is that officials are using a zoning map that was not created through the proper channels, Whitaker said. The last time a zoning map was updated was in 1993. The PAC contends this is different map.

To get answers on how they intend to use the authority, Whitaker told the city staff he wanted a private meeting with Mayor Patrick Hunter, another council member, two PAC members and the director of Community Development.

Three maps of the eminent domain project area hung in the room for the audience to view.

Blue, pink, red and yellow blocks indicated areas that would be affected by the new authority.

At the end of the Urban Futures presentation, it was said that no specific parcels have been identified for acquisition.

"In my book, everything that has a piece of color is being looked at for acquisition," said PAC member Will Whitaker, Dale Whitaker's brother. They own a hardware store on High Street.

David Moe, Redevelopment Agency manager, said there was not enough money to acquire all the property that was identified on the map.

The next PAC meeting is scheduled for June 8.

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