City dodges eminent domain: Twentynine Palms CA Desert Trail, 12/20/06

By Kurt Schauppner

The Twentynine Palmas City Council avoided a potential bullet Thursday, Dec. 14, when last-minute negotiations meant the city did not have to use eminent domain to acquire private property.

In a situation similar to a case which came before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Twentynine Palms City Council was considering the use of eminent domain to acquire three pieces of property on Calle Todd west of Adobe Road.

The property, city officials said, is needed for street improvements on Calle Todd related to the Turtle Rock housing project.

The need to take the property, including 29,978 square feet from a 217,800-square-foot parcel north of Calle Todd, owned by Eric Shaw, and, two parcels, totaling just over 6,800 square feet south of Calle Todd, owned by Ken Hoffman, was averted by the 11th-hour agreements.

In one, developers of the Turtle Rock housing project reached an agreement with Shaw to buy a section of the trailer park property north of Calle Todd and then turn the right of way over to the city.

In the other, Hoffman, owner of Adobe Self Storage on the south side of Calle Todd, met with Councilmen Steve Flock and Steve Spear and came to an agreement to sell part of the two lots where the self-storage business sits.

According to a copy of the agreement provided by the city, final sticking points included the fate of palm trees planted on the south side of Calle Todd. They will remain after street improvements are made, and the fate of a small block wall, which also will remain.

The agreements were announced following a special session of the Twentynine Palms City Council held Thursday, Dec. 14 to consider the possibility of using eminent domain to acquire the property.

“I think the council feels relieved,” City Manager Michael Tree said Friday. “I don’t think it was a direction they were happy to go in.”

On the other hand, he added, council members recognized the need for the public roadway improvements.

“I think they were relieved that they went to every effort to make sure it did not have to go down that route,” Tree said.

Spear, contacted Friday afternoon, echoed those thoughts.

“I think it turned out very well for Mr. Hoffman and Penca Incorporated and the city,” Spear said.

He described the impasse which led to the special council session “a series of small misunderstandings,” adding that “it was understandable how that occurred.”

He praised staff members for bringing the issue to the city council.

“They did not make the decisions they should not have made,” he said.

Although there were some issues, he noted, council members were able to iron them out.

“Everybody left happy,” he said.

Flock, who served with Spear on a task force created just to work out details of the agreement with Hoffman, agreed that he “got right into it,” within days of taking his oath of office.

“Absolutely. I was very pleased,” he said of the outcome.

“It worked out very well and I’m very happy. I am very concerned with the citizens’ property rights.”

Twentynine Palms CA Desert Trail: http://www.deserttrail.com