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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | SIMI VALLEY

City to Seize Land for Cochran Extension

January 14, 1998|COLL METCALFE

In a rare exercise of civic muscle, the City Council decided to seize property from two landowners who have yet to work out an agreement with the developer of the Wal-Mart shopping center for the construction of a Cochran Street extension.

The Simi Valley council's unanimous vote Monday night to begin eminent domain proceedings means the city is laying claim to a 1.3-acre parcel that will be used to provide access to the soon-to-be-built Simi at the Plaza, a 308,000-square-foot center that will house the retail giant and a Home Depot.

"We have wanted to get this road through there for years. We need it and it's ridiculous to hold this up any longer," Councilwoman Sandi Webb said at the meeting.

Property owners James Basile of Newbury Park and Adrian Murphy of Woodland Hills have been unable to reach an agreement with developer Stanley Rothbart on the sale of the land.

Acting on information provided by an independent consultant, Rothbart offered $1.15-per-square-foot for the property, but Basile has insisted it is worth perhaps 10 times that much.

The issue will now be forwarded to the courts which will decide how much the land is worth.

However, Basile may file suit against the city, challenging its right to take the land, according to city officials. Basile declined comment Tuesday.

Under an agreement forged with the city last year, Rothbart will pay for the $1.6-million extension, which will fill a quarter-mile gap in Cochran Street between Madera Road and 1st Street.

The city will eventually reimburse Rothbart for the construction with funds collected through federal housing grants.

Rothbart is hoping to break ground for the $40-million retail center by February to have it open in time for the 1998 holiday shopping season.

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