By Sandra Stokley
GLEN AVON – Just days after voters overwhelmingly backed the use of eminent domain to seize 4.3 acres from Rep. Ken Calvert and his investment partners, Jurupa park officials are already planning their next steps.
On Sept. 11, the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District board of directors is set to certify the results of the Aug. 26 mail-in election in which voters approved Measure P by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.
Eminent domain, or “condemnation,” is the process by which a governmental entity may seize property from an owner unwilling to sell, providing the owner is paid fair-market value.
Bill Morrow, the attorney advising the park district, said the certification will set in motion statutory requirements that must be followed in eminent-domain actions.
Park district officials will be required to make a formal offer on the property based on an appraisal listing the land’s fair-market value, Morrow said.
Calvert and his partners must be advised of their rights under the law. If both sides are willing, a negotiating process would begin.
If the owners opt out of negotiating, then the park district board would adopt a “resolution of necessity,” and an eminent-domain lawsuit would be filed in court, Morrow said.
“There are a lot of T’s to cross and I’s to dot,” Morrow said.
“It remains to be seen how quickly or how slowly it goes.”
The land in question has been at the center of a two-year struggle between the park district and the Jurupa Community Services District.
The community services district sold the property to Calvert, R-Corona, and his partners more than two years ago for$1.2 million in a transaction the Riverside County grand jury concluded violated state law.
Under California law, governmental agencies such as the community services district are required to offer surplus property to other agencies, particularly park districts, before putting the land on the market.
That never happened in this case despite the fact that the Jurupa park district had expressed interest in the property as a possible park or sports field going back to at least 2001.
The Calvert partnership plans to build a self-storage facility on the land.
This week’s vote guarantees that the long-running — and expensive — drama will continue for the foreseeable future.
In July 2007, the park district board of directors hired the law firm Lepiscopo and Morrow to represent them in the dispute over the land.
Since then, the district has paid an average of $10,000 a month for those services.
Board President Robert “Bobby” Hernandez said the legal fees are “part of being accountable to the community.”
“If we’re going to take legal action, we have to make sure someone is on board who knows the legal system,” Hernandez said.
Board member Lee Parde said the result of this week’s vote shows the district has the moral support of the public.
Parde acknowledged that $10,000 a month is a lot of money but then asked rhetorically, “Do you just let (the community services district) get away with it?
“It’s time to let everybody know that they are answerable to the public,” Parde said.
Hernandez and Parde said they hope the park district will recoup its legal costs in the lawsuit it filed earlier this month against the community services district.
The lawsuit charges the community services district with fraud and deceit in connection with the property sale.
It seeks at least $1.5 million in general damages and unspecified special and punitive damages.
The Press-Enterprise: http://www.pe.com