Owners want $12M for land used by feds claiming eminent domain: San Jose CA Mercury News, 2/5/07

Associated Press

Land owners seeking $12 million from the federal government for taking property where they planned to build luxury homes and golf courses outside Coalinga will take their case to a jury this week.

The U.S. Department of Energy used eminent domain four years ago to add a high-tension electrical wire after the state's 2000-01 energy crisis. Owners David Wood and Donald Devine sued two years ago, claiming the power line zapped their plans to build more than 1,000 houses and at least one golf course.

Wood, Devine and Harris Ranch owner John Harris have been thinking of building houses or a golf course in the area since 1976, Wood said. The land is currently zoned for agriculture.

A six-person jury is set to hear the case in U.S. District Court. The government offered to pay the owners $85,000, which it said was the appraised value of the three properties.

Federal officials said development in that area was unlikely because there's little water and it is too far from a major city. Nearby Coalinga, which is about 70 miles southwest of Fresno and 194 miles south of San Francisco, is best known for a damaging earthquake in 1983.

The land along the San Joaquin Valley's arid west side is already getting its best use for cattle grazing, federal officials said.

San Jose CA Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com