Homeowners along the planned route of the Turlock Irrigation District’s new Hughson/Grayson 115 kilovolt transmission line were granted a brief reprieve from eminent domain proceedings Tuesday morning.
While the TID Board of Directors were originally scheduled to adopt a resolution of necessity for the land and easements needed to place the large power poles Tuesday – the first step to claim private land via eminent domain court proceedings – the district will now wait until Aug. 23 before proceeding.
“I think the folks who have spoken today, they feel like if we put this off for 30 days it takes off the burden, even if it's only an impression, that there could be a legal proceeding,” said TID Director Charlie Fernandes.
The non-action came in response to impassioned pleas of homeowners, most living along Euclid Road and Faith Home Road near Hughson, who felt they had insufficient time to negotiate with TID prior to Tuesday’s action. Any delays in the project were solely due to TID, not homeowner heel-dragging, residents said.
According to homeowner Melody McGill, of Euclid Road, TID had originally planned to complete assessments of their property by March. The TID appraisal was not completed until early June, McGill said, when they received an offer for their property.
McGill said the offer she received was neither reasonable nor fair.
“I believe it is way off,” McGill said. “I think we were very much lowballed.”
Other homeowners echoed McGill’s complaint, stating that values of homes, crops, and even parcels’ location in the Hughson sphere of influence were not taken into account by TID’s assessor. Most said they were in the process of obtaining a second appraisal.
In addition to price concerns, homeowners said they were still negotiating with TID about the exact placement of power poles on their parcels.
Residents said that, in 30 days, they believed many issues could be resolved painlessly and without pricy legal proceedings. While negotiations could continue while the eminent domain process occurred, homeowners felt they would need to hire lawyers and would be negotiating from an unfair, “back against the wall” position.
“To me, right now, if I remove myself from this, as a member of the public I'd be upset you were spending my money on litigation which could potentially be avoided,” McGill said.
Despite the potential costs, a 30-day delay could result in even costlier delays down the line as the eminent domain process can take up to five months to complete. As TID officials hope to begin work on the line segment in December, time is of the essence to begin the lengthy process.
“Once you get to this step in the process, the issue is one of timing,” TID eminent domain attorney Joe Fagundes said.
While timing remained a concern, TID directors agreed to a delay as a sign of goodwill, in hopes all of the easements can be secured without further incident.
The TID directors apologized for any inconvenience they had caused homeowners, but cited their obligation to make decisions in the best interest of the district. The new transmission line was necessary for the future of TID’s grid, Director Michael Frantz said, and causing havoc for homeowners was an undesired consequence.
“I’m sorry that we’re here,” Frantz said. “It’s not been fun, and it’s not been easy.”
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