By Gerald Carroll

A Visalia property owner can no longer access his Mooney Boulevard commercial property after it was fenced and padlocked Friday by Caltrans.

The state’s highway-construction agency on Sept. 11 acquired — through court-ordered eminent domain — a portion of David McWilliams’ 33,000-square-foot commercial lot. Caltrans made it official Friday by formally evicting McWilliams’ tenants, surrounding the building with tall, barbed-wire fencing and padlocking its gate, McWilliams said.

“They [Caltrans] are not paying any rent,” McWilliams said Monday, referring to the $2,850 per month he was collecting from long-term tenant Rubio’s Ceramic Tiles, which last week moved to a new location.

McWilliams said that he still needs to remove a $3,000 air-conditioning unit “and some other tools” that he can’t get to because of the lockout.

Caltrans spokeswoman Gloria Sammaniego said McWilliams was allowed in the building Friday to collect whatever he could, but that “anything attached to the wall” had to remain.

McWilliams claims that Caltrans’ acquisition of a section of his commercial lot, some 4,874 square feet, will make the remainder of his lot worthless. McWilliams places the value of the lot, with its 2,500-square-foot building and Mooney Boulevard access, at $700,000.

Sammaniego said that an outside appraiser, Roland Burchard of Walnut Creek in northern California, was on site to appraise the building, which McWilliams said was insured for $224,000. That appraisal has yet to come back with a value on the building.

Caltrans has offered $87,732 for the building and the strip of land it needs to widen Mooney Boulevard and install a bus stop there.

“Even if a bus stop were not in the plans, the building does touch into the area where the road is expected to be widened,” Sammaniego said.

Caltrans has for years been planning the overall renovation of Mooney Boulevard, a stretch of Highway 63 that is also the major north-south commercial artery in the city.

Sammaniego said that McWilliams can challenge the value of the appraisal if he feels it is too low.

Caltrans was forced to acquire only a strip of the lot, Sammaniego said, because McWilliams in past negotiations refused to sell the entire parcel to Caltrans.

Caltrans attempted an appraisal and eviction on Oct. 16, but McWilliams would not allow it.

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