The California Department of Transportation project to widen State Route 76 between South Mission Road and Interstate 15 from two lanes to four is currently in the right-of-way acquisition stage, although Caltrans project manager Ann Fox believes that the right-of-way phase should be complete within the next couple of months.
“We’re entering the last stages,” Fox said. “We anticipate having that phase completed by December.”
Acquisition of land or temporary easements was necessary for approximately 30 parcels. As of the beginning of October, all but three of those transactions had been resolved.
The most complex of the three remaining acquisitions is Fabulous Horse Farm, which was known as Faubus Farms until the parents of Fabulous Horse Farm executive director Stephanie Martin purchased the property in late 2008.
“We’re currently in negotiations on Faubus,” Fox said.
Caltrans, as a state agency, has the right to utilize eminent domain to acquire property. The highway will take the northern part of the Fabulous Horse Farm property, leaving a remainder parcel.
“We’re trying to get to the bottom of what’s the best thing to do for everybody involved,” Martin said.
“Caltrans has changed the plan four times over the last 2 1/2 years,” Martin said. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on and what to do with the remainder.”
The eminent domain process began Aug. 24. If Caltrans and Fabulous Horse Farm are unable to agree on suitable compensation, Caltrans can obtain the land for the appraised value. The negotiations involve acquisition of the
“We’re trying to figure out what to do with that remainder,” Martin said.
“We have nothing in writing from Caltrans,” Martin said. “It has to be in writing before I can even tell my tenants what’s happening.”
Fabulous Horse Farm still boards horses, although a three-year temporary easement has forced the business to shut down its trail activity.
“For 2 1/2 years we’ve been unable to run a business,” Martin said.
“The road is important because the road will help save lives,” Martin said. “We understand it has to be done, but it doesn’t make it easier.”
Martin noted that a separation of at least 100 feet between a horse ranch and a major street is necessary. “Putting a horse ranch next to a freeway is not a good idea,” Martin said. “You have to have a buffer between where the road is and where the horse ranch starts.”
(On Sept. 22 a loose horse wandered onto a non-freeway portion of State Route 67 in Lakeside and was fatally hit by a car.)
Martin acknowledged that Caltrans District 11 has not had recent experience with a horse ranch. “It’s new to them, too,” she said.
If Fabulous Horse Farm moves, a use permit may be necessary. The zoning of the current Fabulous Horse Farm property allows unlimited horses by right.
“Our zoning is just awesome,” Martin said. “It’s just beautiful horse property. Couldn’t get any better.”
Fox believes that Caltrans and Martin might be able to reach a decision on the state agency acquiring the full property.
“We are kind of in limbo until we have stuff in writing from them and we get this whole thing figured out,” Martin said.
“We don’t know what we’re doing,” Martin said. “We are in a holding pattern.”
Martin notes that relocation would also involve relocation for her boarding clients. “I can’t really tell my clients what’s happening or is going to happen,” she said.
“Working with Caltrans has not been fun,” Martin said. “It’s been a hard process, and it’s been hard for everyone.”
One of the other two properties where acquisition will be needed is owned by the County of San Diego; Caltrans and the county are completing the appraisal process. The third property is part of a vacant lot owned by a private developer; an appraisal has been completed for that land.
The right-of-way phase is concurrent with the final stages of the design phase. Caltrans expects to provide bid documents in March 2014 and to award a construction contract in spring 2014. The contractor approach will determine the completion date.
“Right now we’ve anticipated end of 2015 to probably mid-2016,” Fox said.
The interchange improvements at State Route 76 and Interstate 15 were open to traffic in August. In summer 2014, Caltrans will begin landscaping enhancements on the segment of Highway 76 between Melrose Drive in Oceanside and South Mission Road.