By Sandra Stokley

GLEN AVON – Jurupa park officials, thwarted by Riverside County supervisors in their bid to seize property improperly sold to Congressman Ken Calvert and his partners, are taking a different route to obtain the land.

With the backing of California law, the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District will proceed with a plan to seek permission to use eminent domain directly from constituents.

Eminent domain is the process by which a government entity may seize property from an owner unwilling to sell, providing the owner is paid fair market value for the property.

Park district directors have authorized a special, mail-in-ballot election asking residents to vote “yes” or “no” on whether the four acres of Mira Loma property should be taken to be developed as ball fields.

The special election will cost about $50,000.

“I don’t really care,” Calvert partner Woodrow Harpole said of this latest effort by the park district. “It doesn’t make any difference.”

“There are much better properties available,” he said. The developers planned to build a mini-storage facility on the property.

Park board president Robert “Bobby” Hernandez said the district needs to stand up for what’s right.

“Somewhere along the way somebody has to take responsibility for the community,” Hernandez said. “The park district feels the community deserves a park there.”

Hernandez said the results of a telephone and mail-in survey show community support for the park district’s efforts to resolve the issue.

The survey was mailed to about 16,000 voters and received about 1,800 responses, said Dan Rodriguez, park district general manager. About 90 percent of respondents said they would vote for authorizing eminent domain.

The mail-in survey cost the district $15,000, Rodriguez said.

The dispute over the land was triggered in 2006 when the Jurupa Community Services District sold it to Calvert, R-Corona, and his partners without state-required notification to other governmental agencies that the Limonite Avenue property was on the market.

The park district had sought the land since at least 2001 for a park or a youth sports field.

A Riverside County grand jury concluded last summer that the community services district did not follow state law and recommended that the district turn over to the park district the $1.2 million it pocketed from the sale of the land. That recommendation was not followed.

Earlier this year, park district officials asked the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to authorize the use of eminent domain to seize the land. In March, supervisors voted down that request with a 3-2 vote.

Rodriguez said he could understand people having concerns about the expenditure of park district funds on a ballot measure with an uncertain outcome.

“Fifty thousand dollars is OK but anything more would be difficult for me to accept,” Rodriguez said. “However I believe from the input we’ve received from the community, that the probability of it passing would be high.”

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