Doctor must choose between smaller clinic site and eminent-domain suit
By Gerald Carroll
Visalia doctor Magdy Maksy has known for 15 years that Santa Fe Street at Noble Avenue, where his medical office is located, would be widened.
“I was told it would be a strip they [the city] would need along Santa Fe,” Maksy said. Visalia officials want to make Santa Fe a major north-south artery and need to widen it. Further, an old railroad bridge across state Highway 198 is being demolished and replaced by an overpass that will connect Santa Fe’s north and south legs.
“It’s needed,” Maksy said of the multimillion-dollar project. “We don’t want to stand in the way.”
Maksy, specializing in kidney ailments and geriatric conditions, sees at least 20 patients a day, most from the surrounding neighborhood.
That intersection, as it has turned out, also will need a right-turn lane on Santa Fe — placing Maksy’s offices much closer to an even wider stretch of Santa Fe than was first projected.
Visalia-based broker Roy Kendall in September of last year said that reducing Maksy’s current setback from Santa Fe from the present 35 feet to only 2 feet would reduce that office parcel from a market value of $400,000 to “zero.”
“The city of Visalia would never permit the construction of any building right up next to this busy street,” Kendall wrote. Insuring the structure would be difficult, if not impossible, “due to the obvious traffic hazard, danger and noise level.”
Even if Maksy could keep the medical office at its present location, expensive renovations would be needed.
“I will have to tear down and rebuild these [handicapped-accessible] ramps,” Maksy said Thursday, pointing to well-built ramps using formed rock and concrete rather than wood. “I was offered $270 by the city for these repairs.” However, that will pay for only a fraction of the cost to tear back and replace the wheelchair ramps.
That $270 was part of a $25,000 settlement package offered to Maksy and approved Monday by the Visalia City Council. Six other property owners along Santa Fe Street, Mineral King Avenue and a parking lot near Bridge Street have already agreed to accept payments totaling $98,500 for rights-of-way relating to Santa Fe’s widening and Highway 198 bridge.
Eminent-domain terms have been drawn up by the city but no suit has been filed as yet and will be “the last resort,” according to a report prepared by city attorney Alex Peltzer. Eminent domain is used by cities to acquire property against the wishes of private owners so vital public infrastructure can be built.
Maksy’s 903-square-foot section is the only one of the seven that required an eminent-domain threat from Visalia to become reality. Everybody else settled early in the process, city records show.
“I will lose my ambulance entrance off Santa Fe,” Maksy said. “The other parking entrance on Noble will also be cut off, at least through the construction, which will last how long?”
Andrew Benelli, Visalia’s director of public works, said that the ambulance entrance would still be available, though ambulances and other vehicles — such as Visalia City Coach’s Dial-a-Ride used by many of Maksy’s patients — would “not be able to stop on the street where there is a right-turn lane.” The vehicles would have to turn completely into an existing driveway.
Benelli said the Noble entrance should remain unblocked during any construction.
However, Maksy is prepared to move his clinic if need be.
“Maybe a block or two away at most,” Maksy said. “I want to stay in this same area to better serve my patients.”
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