The site selection process for a new school is typically a difficult one, as large acreage is usually needed in the middle of a populated area. When these two factors are combined, eminent domain often follows.
According to a recent article in the Fresno Bee, "Fresno Unified moves ahead on southeast elementary school," this is precisely the situation faced by the Fresno Unified School District as it proceeds with building its new $20 million southeast elementary school. The District needs 8.43 acres, requiring the acquisition of 20 different parcels from 17 different owners. In order to acquire the necessary property, the District's Board has authorized the use of eminent domain for any property that can not be acquired voluntarily through negotiations.
The District has indicated that most of the tenants have been cooperative, and two-thirds of the property is already under the District's control. However, the planned school location requires the acquisition of property belonging to the Foursquare Gospel Church, and the Church apparently is not ready to negotiate. Acquisition of religious property sometimes raises constitutional issues, and as we've reported in the past, also raises unique valuation scenarios.
The District hopes to have all the property under control by April so construction can commence. Under the new eminent domain prejudgment possession rules -- which now may require six to eight months to obtain possession, that is a nearly impossible timeline if eminent domain becomes necessary.
Brad Kuhn, Chair of Nossaman's Eminent Domain & Valuation Group, guides property owners, developers, businesses, utilities, and public agencies through complex real estate development and infrastructure projects – ...
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