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Eminent domain battle brewing in Stanislaus County

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2023 | Eminent Domain

An eminent domain battle is brewing in California’s Central Valley. A fruit stand that has been operating in Riverbank for 30 years sits on five acres of land that Stanislaus County executives want to acquire for a major highway construction project, and local residents are not happy about it. The orchard that owns the fruit stand says relocating the structure will cost about $900,000 and involve uprooting dozens of almond trees. County officials say the highway project will ease traffic congestion in Modesto, Oakdale and Riverbank and connect eastern Stanislaus County to California State Route 99.

A beloved family-owned business

County supervisors met with local residents to discuss the highway construction plans on Dec. 20. During an emotionally charged meeting, residents implored officials to revise their plans and save the fruit stand and the farm it sits on. They told country supervisors that the popularity of the family-owned business convinced a tour bus company to change its routes. After hearing from several local residents and business owners, county executive voted to exercise their eminent domain powers and begin the condemnation process.

Business owners ask for more time

During the meeting, an attorney representing the family that owns the farm and fruit stand asked county officials to pause the eminent domain process for a few weeks. He told the officials that his clients needed the time to obtain an independent appraisal. The public works director responded by saying that work on the North County Corridor Expressway project could not be delayed any longer. County supervisors entered into negotiations with the farm’s owners in December 2022.

Eminent domain

Emotions often run high when cherished local businesses are condemned to make way for infrastructure, but the arguments made by local residents rarely convince officials to change their plans. This fruit stand will likely be demolished and a highway turn lane built on the land it currently occupies. The family that owns the fruit stand would be wise to focus their energies on getting the best price possible for their property.