By Brooke Edwards

VICTORVILLE — The Victorville City Council unanimously approved the use of eminent domain on 34 properties needed for its latest energy project, the Victorville 2 power plant.

“When do you really expect the lights to go out here, folks, that you have to do this our family?” property owner Bob Landwehr questioned the council during Tuesday’s meeting.

City Manager Jon Roberts said the parcels will complete the 250 acres the city needs for its planned Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project, which will include a natural gas-fired plant combined with solar panels. The resolution states that the city needs the plant to accommodate anticipated residential, commercial and industrial growth, with demand expected to exceed current energy resources.

The properties are north of Southern California Logistics Airport and are owned by an array of individuals and real estate companies, along with acreage belonging to the City of Adelanto and the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority. Most have no addresses, being parcels of undeveloped desert land, though they generally run along Helendale Road north of Colusa Road.

Landwehr’s five-acre parcel has been in his family for more than 50 years. He said he and his siblings, who share ownership on the property, do not want to sell. However, they’re not concerned as much with the offered price of $261,000 as with the lack of notice they received about the city’s planned use of eminent domain.

One of Landwehr’s brothers received an offer letter from the city’s negotiating agent Epic Land Solutions on June 24. Three business days later, he received notice of the city’s intent to use eminent domain on the property and explaining their rights to be reimbursed for an independent appraisal. Eight business days after that, the item was before the council for approval.

“This is not in the true spirit of negotiation,” Landwehr told the council, citing the state law regarding how eminent domain proceedings are to take place.

Before the vote, Mayor Terry Caldwell insisted the decision was not taken lightly and not a pleasant one for the council to make.

But, Caldwell said, “This project is important not just to Victorville but to the energy needs of Southern California.”

Property owner Su-main Chen drove from San Diego to attend the meeting, in an effort to understand how the eminent domain process works.

City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky explained that the properties will now go before a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge, who will determine how much money owners will receive from the city. The city can also continue to negotiate pricing, de Bortnowsky said, while the court proceedings take place.

The Daily Press: