Road holdouts upset over prices offered

OAKDALE -- For most of those involved, Crane Road became a mire far before the autumn rain arrived last week.

Barbara Marquis shook her head as she stared at photos of soil that washed onto her property from the road Friday.

"But it's not just that," she said. "It's the whole situation. It's what it represents."

The rain did what Marquis has been trying to prevent for two years, a quick loss of her land.

Of the 46 landowners affected by roadwork along Crane and F streets, four have yet to settle with the home developers who are widening Crane Road in order to comply with an agreement with the city, Public Works Director John Word said before Monday night's City Council meeting.

The city and the four Crane Road landowners are in eminent domain proceedings so the city can acquire the land needed for the road widening.

During the meeting Word updated council members on the road construction's progress. One set of storm drain pipes has been installed. Another will follow soon. At least a portion of the road will be paved by the start of winter. Curbs, gutter and more road will go in later.

In December, City Council members voted to use eminent domain to acquire the rest of the property. A judge has given the go-ahead to work on the road while the developer and land owners negotiate a price, Word said.

"We just want to be treated fairly and get a price somewhere in the middle of what's been offered to people across the street," Marquis said of land for which developers have paid as much as $15 a square foot.

But the land is not the same, according to Word. Although Marquis and the other holdouts are in county jurisdiction and their land is zoned agricultural, those across the street are in the city.

The Marquises and their neighbors the Waddells have been questioning the city's use of an appraisal map that states: "The appraisal has not been prepared to be used in an eminent domain action."

Monday, the group received the results of its appraisals. They would not share the details of the report but said it should help them prove Pacific Union Homes has lowballed them on compensation offers.

Tired of ongoing negotiations, Jerry Marquis, a real estate broker, is considering how he'll proceed if Pacific Union doesn't offer what he thinks is a reasonable amount. Options include suing.

"Their appraisal said they'd take 24 trees, but they took 36 and never gave or promised compensation for them," Rhonda Waddell said of the almond orchard planted along the road.

Gil Travis figures moving the road closer to his land and four feet higher than his yard will devalue his property and put his home in harm's way. Crews are building up the road in some areas to make it more level with railroad tracks that cut across it, Word said. When Travis imagines the elevation increase, he envisions a car tumbling into his home about 20 feet from the road.

"I think if we don't come to an agreement, then we're headed for a jury trial," Jerry Marquis said.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at ehightower@modbee.com or 578-2382.