By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Petaluma City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to proceed with eminent domain actions if purchase negotiations fall through for land surrounding the planned Highway 101 and East Washington Street interchange.
In a special meeting called for the vote, which required a super-majority and was on a tight deadline because of construction timelines, the council spent little time on the issue — which also didn’t generate any public comment or opposition.
The moves, done in separate votes on three properties, allow the city to legally condemn the privately owned land and use it for the public interest.
“Negotiations will not stop. They are continuing,” said Claudia Gorham, the city’s eminent domain attorney. “This is hopefully a formality.”
Petaluma has reached agreements on purchase prices with two of three owners — Novak Property, which owns land that includes the Raley’s grocery store, and Syers Property, which owns the Kmart/CVS parcels. Both of those are on the northeast corner of the interchange along North McDowell Street.
Escrow is set to close at the end of the year on the two agreements. Proposed purchase prices weren’t revealed.
The third property owner is Regency Centers, which is planning a Target shopping center along East Washington. Regency and the city haven’t agreed on a purchase price.
None of the property owners attended the council meeting to voice any concerns.
Construction planning deadlines required a City Council decision on whether to pursue eminent domain by the end of the year if negotiations fall through, Gorham said.
The city will file eminent domain motions in Sonoma County civil court by the end of the year if agreements aren’t met, she said.
Eminent domain, where land owners are compensated at market value when their property is taken by a public entity, is allowed when it is determined to be in the public’s interest.
In this case, the council determined the private land was needed for the widening and reconfiguring of on-ramps to Highway 101 at East Washington, one of the busiest areas of town.
Mayor Pam Torliatt said construction could begin in the spring.
Councilman David Glass said Tuesday’s action was “necessary to keep it on track.”
“This is a journey that started in 2004 with Measure M sales tax money,” he said.
Measure M, a quarter-cent sales tax, was approved by county voters six years ago to fund transportation projects.