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On The Money: Property Fight In Rancho Cordova

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RANCHO CORDOVA (CBS13) — Taxpayers could be out millions of dollars in a big battle over property rights. City officials in Rancho Cordova used eminent domain to take over a property.

Eminent domain is the legal process in which government agencies can take over private property for public use, after compensating the property owner. But in this case, the decision by Rancho Cordova redevelopment officials to use eminent domain could come back to haunt them.

“This is eminent domain abuse,” said Marko Mlikotin, president of the California Alliance to Protect Property Rights. Mlikotin spoke to CBS 13 on behalf of property owner Sam Fong, who declined to comment on pending litigation.

The city of Rancho Cordova used eminent domain to take over the Folsom Boulevard property, with a proposed $4 million buyout to property owner Sam Fong of the Lily Company. Fong rejected the low-ball offer and took the city to court, where a jury awarded him the full value of the property, $9.6 million. After environmental cleanup, Rancho Cordova must pay Fong $7.8 million – which is nearly double what Rancho Cordova had budgeted.

“Taxpayers of Rancho Cordova are going to have to finance this takeover of private property,” Mlikotin told CBS 13. He added this “money that could have gone to public safety for police, fire and parks. Now they’re on the hook for millions and millions of dollars.”

That’s millions of taxpayer dollars for a property that Rancho Cordova may no longer be able to afford. And if the city backs out, taxpayers might have to shell out legal fees that could approach one million dollars, Mlikotin said.

Rancho Cordova city officials wouldn’t comment on camera, but instead sent CBS 13 this statement:

“The City of Rancho Cordova remains in active litigation regarding the property near Folsom Boulevard and Mather Field Road. Negotiations are currently taking place. No decisions have been made. City staff will be happy to comment about those negotiations in the future.”

Troy Holt
Public Information and Legislative Affairs Manager
City of Rancho Cordova

City residents contacted by CBS 13 said they want a quick resolution.
“What would you like to see happen to that property?” this reporter asked one resident.

“Either get it at the original price or just let it go,” said Yolanda Aguilar.

But Rancho Cordova resident William Boyd stated, “I’m all for schools, so if we could get a school there that would be great for the kids.”

Rancho Cordova is planning for a junior college on the site.

rancho campus 1 On The Money: Property Fight In Rancho Cordova

Artist rendition of planned junior college in Rancho Cordova. (credit: http://www.losrios.edu)

In fact, Sam Fong had an agreement to sell his property for $8.6 million to the Los Rios Community College District.  However, the deal fell through and the case went to court.

But no matter what happens next, taxpayers will likely be digging deeper into their pockets for a property that’s now all locked up. Rancho Cordova officials have 30 days to make a decision once the entry of judgment is filed with the court – something that’s expected in the weeks ahead.

Send us your story ideas to onthemoney@kovr.com. You can also follow On The Money stories in progress via Twitter at twitter.com/#!/mikeluery and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CBS13OnTheMoney

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