Nine pieces of property amounting to about 51 acres in Kings, Fresno, Madera and Tulare counties were identified for potential condemnation on Wednesday by the State Public Works Board for California’s controversial high-speed rail project.
The board, comprising the heads of California’s General Services, Transportation and Finance departments, oversees the acquisition of land for state projects. The panel adopted resolutions declaring a necessity to acquire the properties through the process of eminent domain if the California High-Speed Rail Authority cannot successfully negotiate purchase agreements with the owners.
Eminent domain, or condemnation, is a legal process in which a government agency files suit in Superior Court to acquire property for public projects. It’s typically a last resort when the agency and a property owner cannot agree on price or terms. A judge decides whether the agency is entitled to the property; in a second stage of the case, a jury determines the fair market value as well as other “just compensation” due the owner. A resolution of necessity is the first step in the process.
“Negotiations to acquire the properties are continuing,” according to a report to the board. “However, in order to keep the project on schedule, the adoption of resolutions … to authorize the use of eminent domain is required.”
307Number of eminent domain resolutions adopted to date for high-speed rail
1,135Acres of land represented in those eminent domain resolutions
The resolutions adopted Wednesday represent efforts to acquire portions of property rather than entire parcels. The pieces of land range in size from about a quarter of an acre to more than 11 acres. Five of the nine properties are in Kings County, two are in Fresno County, and one parcel each in Tulare and Madera counties. All but one are within the rail authority’s Construction Package 2, which spans from American Avenue at the southern edge of Fresno to just north of the Tulare-Kern county line.
This week’s action brings to 307 the number of resolutions that the Public Works Board has adopted since December 2013, totaling nearly 1,135 acres – either entire parcels or portions thereof – in Madera, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties, home to the first stages of construction of the statewide project. Some of the resolutions involve multiple parcels of land in the Valley.
Acquisition of land for the rail project’s right of way has been one of the major hangups in the authority’s progress on its construction efforts. As of mid-October, the rail authority reported this week, the agency had successfully acquired 344 of the 689 parcels it needs for its first construction section from Madera through the city of Fresno and made them available to the contractor for work. Of the 543 parcels needed in Construction Package 2, the authority has completed deals for 86.