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NID, landowner at odds on value of tree farm land

By: Lien Hoang Journal correspondent
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These days, Robert Hane isn’t feeling very merry about his Christmas tree lot. To shore up the area’s canal system, the Nevada Irrigation District offered to pay roughly $9,400 for ¼ acre of his Pine Valley Ranch Christmas tree farm. But he says it’s worth $19,600, and he won’t take any less. When NID board members meet today to weigh the option of eminent domain, he will try to bring them around on the $10,000 difference. Otherwise, the parties will be going to court. “I have another chance to try to convince these people,” Hane, 65, said of his plan to attend the meeting. “They’re supposed to negotiate with landowners in an amicable way to avoid eminent domain.” In what is shaping up to be a classic battle of public and private property rights, Hane said he is perfectly happy to have his land used to improve irrigation. He just wants a fair price. It is unclear where the road forked into such conflicting prices. The NID had Hane’s land appraised on Sept. 1, 2009, yielding one estimate of $19,600 and another of $5,500. At first the district offered him the latter price. Here their stories diverge further. Hane, who has sold Christmas trees in Auburn for 31 years, said the district insisted he get a second appraisal if he wanted to negotiate. But Gary King, the NID’s chief engineer, said Hane exercised his right under the Uniform Relocation Act and opted for the second appraisal after feeling dissatisfied with the first offer. In any case, the district paid more than $4,000 for that appraisal, which yielded a new estimate and a new offer price: $9,400. “It was a reasonable appraisal,” King said. Hane begged to differ, demanding the NID go with the original figure for his property on Kemper Road. “They are not willing to pay me the highest fair market value appraised,” he said. He cited California Code of Civil Procedure, subsection 1263.320, which calls for government agencies buying land to pay “the highest price on the date of valuation that would be agreed to by a seller, being willing to sell but under no particular or urgent necessity for so doing ... and a buyer, being ready, willing, and able to buy.” Though at odds, both sides seem to have given a little. Hane’s demand for $19,600 does not include the $19,000 he said he’s losing because he can’t plant trees on the ¼ acre in question. And the NID paid for the $3,000 fence that sections off the ¼ acre from Hane’s remaining 5 acres. “It was sort of a good-faith thing they did,” Hane said. And though he has no hard feelings for the district, Hane said he’s willing to fight in court. “I’m not afraid of eminent domain,” he said. “I just wish they would do what the government brochure says, which is to negotiate, which they haven’t done.”