City Ready to Bypass Lot at Arts Plaza : Thousand Oaks: Talks with the owner of a property near the new cultural center break down over the sales price.


Thousand Oaks officials said Tuesday the city is moving ahead with plans to build a roadway around a house that sits at the main entrance to the Civic Arts Plaza because it has reached an impasse over the sale price of the property.

"We're not going to hold this up for anything," Councilman Frank Schillo said. "If we get off schedule, it's going to cost us."

Last week, the City Council voted to give Robert Heggen, the owner of the property, one week to come to an agreement over the price of his land. His property is at the corner of Oakwood Drive and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, where the $64-million government and cultural arts center is being built.

The city has offered $420,000--based on its own appraisal--for Heggen's land, where he operates a land grading and equipment rental business. Heggen is asking for $1.4 million, but said he is willing to negotiate.

Heggen said Tuesday he is in the process of conducting an independent appraisal of his property that he said will take at least a month to complete.

"If they're still sticking to the $420,000 and today's the deadline, I guess I missed the deadline," Heggen said. "But if they're still willing to negotiate, I'm still willing to negotiate."

Despite the city's get-tough stance, officials hinted that there might still be some room to work out a last-minute deal. The city would like to acquire Heggen's property because it would allow Oakwood Drive to be widened to improve traffic flow.

Also, the city would not have to build a large and expensive retaining wall around Heggen's equipment-and-junk-strewn property, which sits about 120 feet from the Civic Arts Plaza building.

If Heggen were to come up with a reasonable price for his land within the next two or three days, the city would probably be willing to listen, Schillo said. "But the longer it goes, the less inclined we will be to talk to the guy," he said.

Councilwoman Elois Zeanah agreed that Heggen's window of opportunity is closing.

"The city would prefer to have the Heggen property," she said. "It would make it a more aesthetic entryway to the Civic Arts Plaza. But we don't have to have that property. That's the message the property owner needs to get."

Both Schillo and Zeanah said the city is not interested in seizing the property through its legal powers of eminent domain.

"Since we have an alternative, we don't see any reason to use it," Schillo said.

Heggen has said he is interested in developing another commercial business on his property, possibly a restaurant, if the city does not increase its offer.

But Zeanah said Heggen will be hard-pressed to develop his commercially zoned, 60-by-330-foot property because of its narrow proportions. Under the city's building guidelines, a new business there would be limited to building a structure no more than 30 feet wide.

"There won't be any room for parking," Zeanah said, "so I don't think it has any viable commercial use."

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