New development poses “eminent domain” theat to established residents: Tehachapi CA News, 9/27/06

Local homeowner feels pushed aside by new development

By Carin Enovijas

Last week’s city council meeting gave citizens the opportunity to express growing concerns regarding the ever-increasing presence of new home developments inside the city.

Other issues that have been raised previously, such as residents not being properly notified by the city of pending construction, and the correlation between the number of new homes being built and the local real estate market’s recent softening, echoed throughout the meeting.

Uncharacteristically, the biggest, and clearly the most emotional issue raised, concerned the smallest proposed development.

Although a new tract map for only 18 new homes was ultimately approved by the council, one long-time area resident’s home was at the core of the council’s deliberations.

Those 18 homes represent a fraction of the 887 dwellings that are currently in some stage of development, surrounding the two acre parcel of one Tehachapi resident.

A home at the heart of the matter
“We’ve been notified that the road [Pinon Street] goes through our garage and the city has told me there’s nothing I can do about it,” Timothy Dunn said to the council.

Timothy and Donna Dunn have lived in Tehachapi since 1992. Eight years ago, they carefully chose and purchased their “dream home,” located at the “end” of West Pinon Street which, for now, remains a dirt road.

However, according to Tehachapi’s City Manager, Jason Caudle, and the city’s General Plan, Pinon Street occupies a section line, which means that it is considered a “major collector,” that may eventually require widening to four lanes of traffic. At the very least, Caudle said it will definitely be paved with two lanes, connecting Curry Street and Tucker Road.

“The idea is that eventually Mr. Dunn’s property will be redeveloped as something else. It sits in the path of development. That property will be sold and developed for higher use to a new owner. At some point that road will be widened and will someday be a major thoroughfare,” Caudle said.

The subject of “eminent domain” was casually raised by the city’s attorney, Tom Schroeter.

“If you take my garage, you take my whole property. Someone’s going to pay for the stress,” Dunn said.

Caudle said he doubts that eminent domain would become an issue and that the city would not be one to develop the property.

“The owner only sells it [his property] because it will make him money,” Caudle said citing Red Apple Road as an example of eminent domain. “The county probably had to buy property to make Red Apple Road as a benefit for the many to the detriment of the few,” he said.

Governments most commonly use the power of eminent domain when the acquisition of real property is necessary for the completion of public projects such as roads, military installations, or public buildings. Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, property owners must be adequately compensated for private property.

“Maybe someday your property will be very valuable,” Mayor Pro Tem Deborah Hand told Dunn.

Ultimately, Caudle assured Dunn that he will work with him regarding noise issues, and that for now the road can be constructed to avoid Dunn’s property.

Aside from the threat of eminent domain, the Dunns said that for three years they have been seriously inconvenienced due to current construction projects that have intermittently blocked their road or driveway, interrupted all of their utilities at various times and caused landslides of mud in their backyard due to the erosion from grading the fields surrounding their property, among a long list of other claims.

The Dunns said that they were first made aware of the development in their area when they came home from work to find a series of stakes lining the roadside leading straight to their driveway.

According to the Dunns, the city had sent notification of the new development adjacent to their property to their old address, even though they had no trouble billing them for city services at their correct address.

The Dunns also said their utility meters have been moved several times, a fence was taken down, a tree was cut, ditches have been dug and left exposed, all without their permission.

Dunn appealed to the city for more support and intervention with the developers.

“We have a good relationship with the developers and we tend to get success as a result. I will work closely with Mr. Dunn to ensure his concerns are addressed,” Caudle said.

Tehachapi CA News: http://www.tehachapinews.com