Deal with county lets city of Yuma use eminent domain: Yuma AZ Sun, 5/21/07

By Jeffrey Gautreaux

After nearly an hour of discussion and despite plenty of reservations, the Yuma County Board of Supervisors approved an intergovernmental agreement that allows the city of Yuma to move forward on five infrastructure projects and use eminent domain to secure property if necessary.

The agreement, approved by a 3-2 vote, allows the city to negotiate and possibly use eminent domain to acquire necessary right-of-way that is outside the city limits. The supervisors' concerns were that they were turning over the future of their constituents' property to another municipality, upon which they have no control.

Supervisor Tony Reyes said the board was reluctant because if the city "messes this up," the county would get blamed. "The last thing we want to hear is from county residents who feel the city of Yuma has given them the runaround," he said. "Because it will affect everything else we want to do in the future."

The projects, which affect a handful of parcels in the county, covered by the agreement are improvements to the following roadways: 32nd Street between 8th Avenue and 28th Drive; 24th Street between Avenue 6E and Avenue 9E; Avenue 3-1/2E between 24th Street and County 14th Street; and Avenue 7E between 24th Street and County 9th Street. The agreement also cover plans for a new water transmission line from the Agua Viva Water Treatment Plant, 2670 S. Avenue 9E, to 24th Street.

Chairman Casey Prochaska said she knew too little about the various projects to feel comfortable in turning the matter over to the city. She and Supervisor Lenore Stuart voted against the agreement.

Prochaska said this issue was an unintended consequence of city annexations that have led to a checkerboard on the edges of the city. City Engineer Paul Brooberg said the checkerboard can cause problems for engineers, law enforcement and other agencies, but he said the city has simply made annexations where residents have requested them.

Two property owners who have right-of-way the city needs told the board that they felt they were not being provided enough information and were having difficulty in negotiating with the city. Deputy City Attorney Richard Files told the board that the city is using its normal process and meeting with residents. He said acquiring the property will take a long time, and the city still has far to go before it has the land it needs.

Supervisor Russell McCloud said there was no reason to believe the city wouldn't negotiate in good faith in the same manner that the county would.

The supervisors considered putting the matter off for a few months or amending it to give them more discretion, but in the end, they believed the city needed the agreement to move forward. The city can acquire private property outside the city through mutual agreement with the owner, but they have no right to pursue condemnation proceedings in court for lands outside the city. The intergovernmental agreement will allow them to do this if necessary.

And those proceedings are almost always necessary, according to County Administrator David Garcia. Garcia said property owners regularly hold out to go to court because they get higher prices than what is initially offered by a municipality.

As part of the agreement, the city will pay all of the costs for the land they purchase and for legal fees in any eminent domain case.

Yuma AZ Sun: http://www.yumasun.com