By A.J. Hazarabedian

A new article in the Victorville Daily Press about a large difference in opinion of value caught our attention this week.  The city of Victorville and the First Assembly of God church have been negotiating for three years about the La Mesa/Nisqualli interchange project and how it will affect the church operations.

The article, “Church, city have $7.5M difference of opinion” talks about the problems involved and discusses both sides of the issue.

Per the article, the project will cause the church to lose about 3 percent of their property which includes 56 parking spaces.  The church was offered “$560,000 last spring based on a real property appraisal, but the offer has since been lowered to $436,000 in light of a small redesign and recent property value declines,” according to the Victorville Daily Press.

The church’s attorney, however, claims the total damages to the property are valued at $8 million.  As we explain in our “California Eminent Domain Handbook,” a property owner is not required to accept the condemning agency’s offer.  Instead, the property owner may make a counter-offer, or may assert a higher value for his or her property once the eminent domain action is filed in court.  Property owners, tenants and business owners often receive higher, and in some cases, much higher compensation than the amount of the condemning agency’s offer by asserting a claim for greater compensation in the eminent domain proceeding.  This is, of course, not always the case.

In this circumstance, the difference of opinion is $7.5 million.  City Manager Doug Robertson states in the article that “the City has rejected their demand for over $8 million as compensation for these 56 parking spaces, which comprise less than one half acre of land.”

The church’s pastor Josh Gerbracht explains “it’s not just the land they’re taking, but it’s the overall impact on access, traffic, parking spots, future building, the visual impacts…”

A mediation is scheduled between the two parties for January.  If a settlement is not reached, a jury will determine just compensation in a February trial.