Earlier this month, the State Publics Works Board approved and adopted Resolutions of Necessity (the agency’s decision to take property by eminent domain) for 12 more properties in the San Joaquin Valley required by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (“CHSRA”).
Parcels impacted are in Fresno, Madera, Kings, and Tulare counties. The parcels total 53 acres, but some parcels are as small as a quarter of an acre to as large as ten acres.
Since December 2013, over 270 resolutions covering about 800 acres have been adopted by the State Publics Works Board for the High Speed Rail project.
The Board has also approved site selection of 68 parcels along the rail path in the Valley – a first step before the CHSRA can formally begin to negotiate for the land. The CHSRA will attempt to negotiate the sale of these parcels, but if the owners refuse, CHSRA will almost certainly seek to acquire them through eminent domain where the owners may be forced to sell.
One of the 68 parcels is owned by the Haflich family, which has been caught in limbo wanting to sell, but waiting for the board to approve site selections so they could begin negotiating a sale price.
Properties in Downtown Fresno that are needed for the rail project have been mostly vacated and are being demolished. One such building that has been torn down is the old Paper Plus building.
Despite acquiring a large amount of land and starting construction on the project, the process of buying and acquiring land for the CHSRA has been a slow process. As of the time of this posting, it has the rights of about 300 of the required 1,277 parcels for the Merced-Bakersfield line.
Jeff Morales, the CEO of the rail authority says he does not see this slowing down the timeframe for finishing the rail project. Construction workers will work on the land that has already been acquired. Notwithstanding, Morales says a revised timeline will come out later in the fall.
The first stretch of the rail project, which is estimated to be done by 2017, has only acquired about half of the properties it needs.
Land owners have reported that the CHSRA’s agents are using pressure tactics to acquire the property and are offering lowball values that are well below fair market value. Our firm currently represents several property and business owners along the proposed rail line, and we’ve seen much the same. Hopefully, folks who are impacted will recognize that they don’t need to just accept what CHSRA offers. They are entitled to challenge CHSRA’s appraised values and to obtain full fair market value for their properties which are being taken. Hiring an eminent domain attorney is generally the best way for these owners to ensure they get everything they are entitled to.
CHSRA has deflected the allegations that they are using pressure tactics and making lowball offers for properties. They have said they will make sure to train and re-train staff to make sure the process is streamlined and fair.
What does this mean for you?
Despite the fact that land acquisition remains slow, the rail project continues to move forward at an increasing pace. The rail authority continues to acquire more and more land through offers or eminent domain. If you are in the proposed path of the rail, CHSRA may be knocking on your door sooner than you might think.
We’ll be continuing to follow the progress of the project on our website at www.caledlaw.com. If you are an affected property or business owner, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.