Condemnation Starts for Bridge Easement

Unable to make a deal for an easement needed to build a footbridge across the Arroyo Simi, the Moorpark City Council has decided to get hold of the property through condemnation.

The City Council voted Wednesday night to start the condemnation process for three pieces of land totaling 33,809 square feet near the south end of Liberty Bell Road, near where an 11-year-old boy drowned last month crossing the arroyo. The process could delay construction of the bridge for several months.

Moorpark sixth-grader Joel Burchfield was apparently swept into the rain-swollen arroyo Feb. 1 while taking a shortcut home from school. After the boy's death, more than 1,300 middle and high school students signed a petition urging the council to build the bridge, which has been planned since the mid-1980s.

Before starting the project, city officials need permission to use land owned by Southern California Edison and have spent several weeks negotiating with the utility for an easement. But no deal was forthcoming, said Rudy Gonzales, regional manager for Edison.

Edison wanted to give over the easement in exchange for permission to use land elsewhere in the city, Gonzales said.

The utility owns another strip of land at the far end of Arroyo Vista Park, and it wanted an easement for trucks to be able to travel across the park to get to the land, Councilman Bernardo Perez said. It also wanted an agreement that would allow it to get water to the site, which in the past was used as a nursery.

"We didn't think those issues should be linked to the bridge easement," Perez said.

So the council decided to start the condemnation process to get an easement across the land. The first step is to get an appraisal of the land, which could take as long as 10 weeks. With that appraisal, the city could then make an offer for an easement across the property.

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