According to a Santa Maria Times article, "Eminent domain decision delayed," the County of San Luis Obispo is currently in the process of acquiring property for the Nipomo's Willow Road Interchange project, which will extend Willow Road from Hetrick Road to Highway 101, and will also include constructing new onramps for access to Highway 101 from the extension. While it appears the County has successfully negotiated the property acquisitions so far, the County may utilize its eminent domain powers to condemn other necessary properties.
One impacted property -- a wedge-shaped parcel adjacent to Highway 101 -- is owned by Universal Life Church. This week, County officials considered whether to adopt a resolution of necessity to begin the eminent domain process to acquire the church's property, but postponed reaching a decision while negotiations continued. However, the decision will not be delayed for long, as County staff noted the project must be ready to proceed by June 30 in order to obtain $10 million in State Transportation Improvement Program funds earmarked for the interchange.
This scenario mirrors others we've reported in the past, and evidences that the risk of losing transportation funds is actually fueling public agencies to begin the eminent domain process earlier than what may otherwise be the case. In order to obtain funds, many public agencies need possession of the property by a date certain; i.e., the agency must pass the resolution of necessity, file the eminent domain action, and obtain an order for prejudgment possession of the property by a specified deadline in order to secure necessary funding.
With respect to the Universal Life Church property, however, County staff believe the passage of a resolution of necessity is enough to show state officials that the County is ready to obtain the property (which in turn should be sufficient to obtain the transportation funds).
Leaving aside all of the other issues involved in this situation, if the County staff's belief is reflective of funding agencies starting to come to terms with the new possession rules by tying their funding commitments to passage of a resolution of necessity, as opposed to obtaining prejudgment possession, this is a good sign both for agencies trying to build infrastructure projects and property owners who don't want to be rushed into an eminent domain lawsuit just because the agency risks losing key funding.
California Eminent Domain Report is a one-stop resource for everything new and noteworthy in eminent domain in California. We cover all aspects of eminent domain in California, including condemnation, inverse condemnation, and regulatory takings. We also keep track of current cases, project announcements, budget issues, legislative reform efforts, and report on all major California eminent domain conferences and seminars.
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