Murrieta to consider eminent domain in second hearing of its kind

By Nelsy Rodriguez

A major freeway project moving full speed toward construction has come upon a halting sign that reads: Private property.

With plans under way to replace the Clinton Keith Road bridge and build two loop onramps to the freeway, Murrieta officials are set to consider beginning eminent domain proceedings on land that sits east of the freeway.

The Tuesday night hearing is the city’s first step in the eminent domain process, where a government agency can force a landowner to sell property at its fair market value if the land is needed for a public benefit.

If approved by the council, this will be the second time since mid-October that the city has taken steps to force a property owner to sell land. The city already has acquired rights on other parcels within the project site.

Councilman Gary Thomasian said he was surprised that again a property owner has declined city offers.

“I don’t know why they don’t want to sell,” Thomasian said. “Those are questions that we’ll definitely be asking because this is a project that’s been in the works for many years. It’s nothing new.”

According to city reports, property owner Curci-Turner Company of Newport Beach has not yet accepted city bids for portions of four parcels that are needed for the roadwork project.

The city is prepared to pay $827,400 for portions of the four parcels owned by Curci-Turner Company, city staff reports state. The city is also ready to put the project out to bid, but cannot do so until all necessary right-of-ways are acquired.

A representative at Curci-Turner Company declined to comment and city Public Works Director Pat Thomas could not be reached for comment Monday.

The road project has been in the plans for years. Originally, city officials thought the work could be complete by October.

Thomasian said the delay in starting the bidding process puts the city at risk of missing a golden opportunity to get the construction work done at a really great price.

“Of course, the city has a timeline because (we) want to get this thing out to bid and take advantage of the way the economy is right now,” Thomasian said. “You’ll get more people bidding on these projects and ultimately it brings in lower bids.”

The eminent domain hearing comes a month after a similar situation regarding another property needed for the project.

In October, the city began proceedings to take a portion of another parcel near the project site by eminent domain after the city had reportedly been unable to reach an agreement with property owner Kim Investments. Negotiations on that property continue, Thomasian said.

“As of right now, I haven’t heard if there’s any kind of settlement,” he said. “But I do know that if there’s no settlement, then we’ll be going forward (to court).”

The 7 p.m. meeting will be held at City Hall, 24601 Jefferson Ave.

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