City of Vista May File Eminent Domain Action to Assemble Auto Mall

Everyone knows the sad tale of America's automotive industry:  companies operating only through government subsidies and dealerships shutting their doors across the country.  So when the City of Vista came up with a plan to "create a second downtown car dealership and boost sales tax revenue," one would think the public would embrace it. 

But like many bold plans, this one has a wrinkle.  While most of the property needed to facilitate the plan is available for purchase, including the existing North County Ford site, one additional parcel is needed.  

According to North County Times reporter Cigi Ross, in her December 5 article, "VISTA: City plans to buy North County Ford property,"  the plan requires the acquisition of the Riviera Motel, whose owner does not want to sell.  In fact,

[the owner] accused the city of trying to steal his land and give it to the rich.

Last month, we told you the City was seeking to purchase the motel property.  Having apparently failed in those efforts, the City Council plans to vote today on whether to proceed with the purchase of the other properties needed at a cost of around $15 million -- and on "whether to try to seize the motel through eminent domain."  

For anyone who thinks this is just the kind of thing the post-Kelo eminent domain reform was designed to protect against, it is worth noting that California's primary reform act -- 2008's Proposition 99 -- deals only with protecting certain single-family residences.  Assuming the City of Vista demonstrates that the public interest and necessity require the project -- and that the motel property is necessary for that project -- it is unlkely any significant barriers will exist to the City's exercise of eminent domain to acquire the property should the City choose to proceed.

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Paul Ahlers - March 7, 2010 3:00 AM

I have read that Owners forced to sell property though eminent domain have tax advantages on any gain as opposed to if they sell voluntarily.

This is exactly how the city acquired the land for Vista Village years ago. Good Luck to the owner - and good luck to those who believe in the "American Dream". The backroom deals continue.

Rick E. Rayl - March 7, 2010 4:10 PM

Paul --
This is a good point, and it does create opportunities for agencies to offer a tax benefit to property owners, which can make the difference that results in a voluntary acquisition.
I will probably do a blog post on this subject later this week, because there are some changes being proposed as a way to close California's budget gap that could impact this favorable tax treatment. -- Rick

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