Eminent domain issue tabled

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

The Clovis City Commission on Thursday tabled a vote to purchase land from a private landowner that would have allowed the city to build a drainage ditch.

Commissioners will wait 90 days before they decide whether to purchase 1.13 acres of Griego’s property and replace a fence for $22,750, under the law of eminent domain.

“I don’t want a ditch on my property,” Griego told commissioners.

Under state law, the city can take the land at fair market price in the name of public good.

Griego will contract an independent appraiser within 90 days to estimate the value of the acreage, he said.

Mayor David Lansford said tabling the matter would allow for fruitful discussion later. Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the time extension.

Griego and the city have been unable to come to an agreement since talks began in June 2001, City Attorney David Richards said.

If Griego contests the city’s use of eminent domain laws, Clovis could build the ditch on Griego’s land while the case is litigated, Richards said.

In order to stop ditch digging, Griego would have to prove the project doesn’t fulfill a “public purpose,” or show his property wasn’t purchased at a fair market value, Richards said.

Better drainage is needed, Griego said, but he wants to minimize his loss and asked commissioners to consider building a street or underground drainage system, rather than a ditch, he said.

Lansford said by law the city can’t construct a drainage system that would increase the value of Griego’s property. The mayor said city officials are also prohibited from doing anything to decrease the value of Griego’s property.

Other actions at Thursday’s City Commission meeting include:

• Approved (6-2): Monitor roundabout traffic with mounted cameras
Six of eight commissioners voted to purchase video equipment for $1,500 to monitor and record potential speeders and accidents on Llano Estacado Boulevard and Norris Street.

Commissioner Fred Van Soelen opposed the measure, which he said is reminiscent of “Big Brother.”

Roundabout traffic video would be streamlined on the county’s Web site from cameras mounted on Faith Family Church, commissioners said.

Van Soelen said police are trained to investigate accidents so the cameras don’t seem necessary.

Commissioner Cathy Haynes, who voted for the measure, said if people know they’re being recorded they may be less likely to break traffic laws.

• Approved (5-3): City will require all new homes to have water circulation pumps

Mayor Lansford said new homes with water circulation pumps will save water, because much clean water is lost down the drain while people wait for it to heat up.

Commissioner Robert Sandoval said new-home residents should have options but shouldn’t be required to install circulation pumps.

Van Soelen expressed concern that future technology may emerge rendering the pumps less effective.

• Approved (8-0): Shogun Japanese Steakhouse can apply for license to sell alcohol

The establishment is less than 300 feet from a church, so by law it was restricted from selling alcohol. Restaurant owner Steve Yen asked commissioners to waive the restriction so he can apply for a permit to sell beer and wine. The restaurant is 265 feet from Legacy Life Family Church. Richards said church officials did not contest a waiver to the restriction.

• Approved: (8-0): Traffic signals at intersection of Thornton Street and Manana Boulevard

The state will fund the signals at a cost of $441,000, and if costs inflate the city will cover the difference, Richards said.

• Approved (8-0): Commissioners to attend Santa Fe Town Hall Meeting
The city will spend no more than $2,000 for two commissioners to participate in the conference, which will be held April 20 through April 22 in Santa Fe.

• Approved (8-0): City will spend $53,048 more on wastewater lagoon expansion project

Lagoon project engineer Robert Echols told commissioners drainage construction hit some snags with Southwest Cheese, and extra funds are needed to complete the project.

• Approved (8-0): City will solicit art for Civic Center
Lansford said the existing Civic Center committees will solicit art donations and lendings to decorate the new building. Art should not promote religious and political ideologies, he said.

• Discussion: City has about $4.2 million in an insured bank account.
City Manager Joe Thomas read from the financial report.