May 23, 2023 — Tulare County Board of Supervisors
Documented by Dani Huerta
What happened: At their Tuesday meeting, the Tulare County Supervisors voted to initiate eminent domain proceedings to acquire a privately-owned parcel at a Goshen intersection, despite the landowner’s request for more time.
The 5,769-square-foot parcel is a vacant lot located on the southwest corner of Road 67 and Betty Drive near Highway 99. It will be used to widen the intersection to add more turn lanes, six street lights, and sidewalk improvements.
The vote authorizes the county to purchase the property from Hasmukhbhai Patel and Shardaben Patel for $194,000.
Attorney Christopher Washington spoke on their behalf in objection and asked the supervisors to delay their vote for 60 days so the Patels can obtain an appraisal and engage in negotiations. He said the Patels reside out of state and the first time they received a formal written offer for the purchase of the property, it was dated April 12 and the next notice of hearing was dated April 25.
“Due to this less than two-week notice, this hearing is premature,” Washington said. “The county has expedited this hearing without allowing the Patels to negotiate and provide a counter offer.”
Washington cited California government code section 7267.1, which he said requires a public entity to acquire real property by negotiation.
Tulare County Resource Management Agency Director Reed Schenke said the county has worked with the Patels for “well over” the time when the initial written offer was sent in April.
Schenke said the project has already been delayed for several months, if not years, due to discussions with the owners of this property and others at the intersection.
Supervisor Eddie Valero, who represents District 4 where the project is located, said that he believes there has been “ample time” and the county has done its due diligence to move forward with acquiring the property.
“It does pain me when we have to go through situations like this, this is far and few between,” Valero said. “But I also need to take into consideration the livelihood, walkability, and the neighborhood improvements to communities that need it now more than ever.”
Supervisor Pete Vander Poel said he believes the community benefits to Goshen outweigh the issue of valuation and he does not want to see the project lose funding or be delayed further.
“I don’t take this lightly at all, eminent domain by any government is certainly an infringement upon private property owner’s liberty,” Vander Poel said.
And also: During public comments, Joseph Knudson said that he will be leaving the County Road Maintenance Yard for Caltrans because he feels he is underpaid.
He presented a petition from labor union SEIU 521 with the names of dozens of county workers. It states that the “county’s inability to retain workers is leading to unsafe staffing levels that hinder our ability to provide life-saving care and essential service to our community.”
Up next: The Tulare County Board of Supervisors will meet again on June 6.