Stanislaus County will seize home to widen road

kcarlson@modbee.comMay 21, 2013 

    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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— Stanislaus County supervisors decided Tuesday to use eminent domain to take an "upside-down" residential property needed for a wider Claribel Road.

The county has offered to pay $85,000 for the 0.69-acre parcel at 1743 Claribel, where a tenant lives in an 1,100-square-foot house with a garage and storage shed. Staff said the owners have not responded or countered the offer since officials first tried to contact them almost two years ago.

Public Works Director Matt Machado said the county is arranging to move the tenant and a large amount of personal property at the county's expense. The 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Jim DeMartini absent, sets in motion an action to take the parcel, which is burdened with a $258,000 bank loan.

Owners John and Suki Gonzalez did not speak at the meeting.

Board Chairman Vito Chiesa asked how the debt would be extinguished. County Counsel John Doering explained the $85,000 will be placed in an account and the court will decide which creditors are paid.

It's possible the bank could be stuck with the debt, Doering said, adding that he didn't know if loan terms would allow the bank to go after the owners for the unpaid balance.

Benefits of a wider Claribel

Supervisors said there's a major public benefit for the Claribel project. Costing $15.2 million, it will turn the congested two-lane road into a divided four-lane thoroughfare from McHenry Avenue to Oakdale Road, with a signal at Coffee Road.

That's expected to reduce motor vehicle collisions and improve east-west traffic flow. Machado said the two-mile segment averages 16 accidents per year.

Officials plan to start construction in the fall, first replacing the bridge over the Modesto Irrigation District canal east of Coffee. Most of the road construction will be done next year.

Before any dirt is turned, however, the county is negotiating to acquire part of 17 parcels on Claribel's north side, most of it used for agriculture.

County officials said an appraisal showed $85,000 is the fair market value of the Gonzalez property, situated halfway between Coffee and Oakdale roads. According to records, the owners bought the place in early 2004, a few years before real estate values plummeted.

Machado said rules would permit the county to offer more if the property were owner-occupied.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.


The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors also took the following action Tuesday:

• Approved an increase in the top salary for fire warden and assistant director of Office of Emergency Services from $137,072 to $150,779, retroactive to April 2012. Fire Warden Gary Hinshaw was appointed that month to serve as interim chief of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority

• OK'd an agreement with the California secretary of state to provide $30,000 in federal funds to the county for complying with the 2002 Help America Vote Act

• Approved an agreement with Caltrop Corp. to provide on-call construction management for public works projects. County Public Works expects to need $750,000 in construction management services in the next three years.

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