Land battle brewing over eminent domain: Clovis (NM) News Journal, 8/4/06

By Marlena Hartz

A three-year-old land dispute between a Clovis [NM] property owner and the city grew more tangled last month when the owner declined the city’s offer to purchase a strip of his land.

His decline allows the city to seize the strip under the law of eminent domain, which gives government entities the right to acquire private lands for public use, with or without the owner’s consent.

City officials intend to construct a 30-foot open drainage channel across 1.3 acres of Daniel and Pauline Griego’s 15-acre farm at Rodeo and Humphrey roads. The ditch would provide drainage for a growing residential development there, according to city officials. A pond near the development regularly floods when it rains, City Commissioner Randy Crowder said.

“The ditch is needed in order to avoid flooding of that entire neighborhood,” Crowder said.

The Griegos’ lawyer disagrees.

“We just don’t see a good public reason for this,” said the Albuquerque lawyer who represents the family, Donald Sears Jr.

“We attempted to negotiate with the city fairly and in good faith. The Griegos just want to make sure they are not taken advantage of,” Sears said.

The Griegos did not return Clovis News Journal phone calls.

Currently, the city is appraising the land, for the second time, said City Manager Joe Thomas.

For a deed to the land and an easement, the city offered the Griegos $13,560, a copy of the city’s unconditional offer to them shows. That sum could alter depending upon the result of the appraisal, Thomas said.

By law, the city must pay the Griegos just compensation for the land.

Sears said he will file for an injunction as soon as the city attempts to seize the property. If granted, it would freeze the city from further action until the dispute is settled in court.

“If the city (seizes) the property, we want the proper compensation, and we want them to do it in a way that is not damaging to the property,” Sears said.

The Griegos earlier this year asked the city to consider building an underground drainage ditch instead of an open channel, acknowledging its higher cost but contending it would require less maintenance and offering to contribute land to the city.

However, the city rejected the suggestion because the underground pipe system was too expensive and would require more complex construction and maintenance, Thomas said.

Clovis (NM) News Journal: http://cnjonline.com