Council takes final steps in eminent domain proceedings

By Josh Premako

The last obstacle to a new library in Newhall could fall Tuesday, and piercing shop owner Thomas Fitterer said he’s given up on fighting it.

In November, the City Council agreed to use eminent domain to seize the property that houses the Just Passing Thru piercing shop on Spruce Street, approving up to $800,000 for the property Fitterer purchased 16 years ago.

On Tuesday, the council will be asked to approve a new sum of $1.01 million, which includes any necessary relocation fees.

The new amount is the result of continued negotiations with Fitterer, said Paul Brotzman, director of community development.

City officials plan to start work on the library within a year and open it in 2012, Brotzman said.

Fitterer’s was the last space the city needed to acquire in the small building, which also houses a chiropractic office and a pet store.

The building will be razed to make way for a new library.

The city paid $1.25 million last year for the chiropractic office adjacent to the Fitterer’s space.

“I’m done,” Fitterer said Friday afternoon. “I don’t have the money to fight.”

Fitterer splits his time between Tustin and Palm Springs, and runs Professional Practice Sales in Tustin, which specializes in the appraisal and sale of medical office space. His son, John Fitterer, runs Just Passing Thru.

Expected to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million, the library will stand at the intersection of Lyons Avenue and Main Street. At about 25,000 square feet, it will be roughly five times larger than the existing library at the corner of Walnut and 9th streets.

“This is a major, major expansion,” Brotzman said.

Taking Fitterer’s property was the first time the city used eminent domain to acquire property for its planned revitalization of downtown Newhall.

“Eminent domain is an evil thing. They think they own everything,” Fitterer said. “They need a new library like they need a hole in the head.”

Mayor Frank Ferry said the dollar amount on Tuesday’s agenda is “fair for the property owner and the city,” adding the new library will be a “crown jewel” in the middle of Newhall.

Approved in late 2005, the Downtown Newhall Specific Plan aims to spend about 20 years turning one of the valley’s oldest communities into a mixed-use, arts-friendly downtown that attracts visitors from inside and outside the Santa Clarita Valley.

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