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Eminent domain gets green light from council

Newport officials call it 'necessity' to take undeveloped land. Selich casts dissenting vote.

June 10, 2010|By Sarah Peters

The Newport Beach City Council has approved the use of eminent domain to acquire a parcel of land from reluctant property owners along Jamboree Road to complete a street-widening project.

The city offered to purchase the land for $452,000 in January, but was unable to reach an agreement with the property owners of the land, which spans a tenth of an acre and has no buildings, according to staff report.

Citing it as a "resolution of necessity," the council approved the action in a 6-1 vote Tuesday evening. Councilman Edward Selich cast the dissenting vote, calling eminent domain one of the government's "more fearsome and awesome powers."

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Selich proposed that negotiations with the property owners continue.

"We should only be doing this as a last resort," he said.

Mayor Keith Curry supported the action, although saying that he himself helped write the city's charter, which prohibits the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes.

"But eminent domain exists because there's always one property owner for an important public project who, if they are the last holdout, can hold up the government and taxpayers for more money than the parcel is worth," the mayor said. "And that's precisely the situation we fine ourselves in now."

According to California Law, once eminent domain is enacted, the city must wait 120 days before acquiring the land.

Among other resolutions passed Tuesday night was the approval of a license for a new Newport Beach Farmers Market to open in two weeks in Lido Marina Village and the funding of $12.4 million for landscaping along Bristol Street North.

The market will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays on Via Oporto from Central Avenue to just northwest of Via Lido.

The license agreement for a one-year term for a new farmers market was approved on a unanimous vote.

Farmers markets are invaluable in creating bonds between community members, Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said.

Statistics have shown that a person interacts with six to 10 other people while shopping at a farmers market, as opposed to a regular market, Gardner said.

"It really does help the fabric of the community," she said. "So it's a great to have another market."

The $12.4 million was made available through the Orange County Transportation Authority under the Transportation Enhancement program, according to a staff report.

The landscaping improvements will include an irrigation system and drought-tolerant plants on the south side of Bristol Street North between Jamboree Road and Campus Drive.

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