The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Landowner still refusing pipeline payment


April 24, 2018

CLOVIS — Phillip Chavez may have to let the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority build its pipeline in his land, but he still refuses to accept its payment offer or continue in the court proceedings on the matter, at least for now.

“There’s nothing that I can do,” he told The News, referring to the eminent domain dispute more than a year in the making. “They got what they wanted, they stole it fair and square. It’s unfortunate I have to feel this way, but that’s what I feel has transpired.”

Chavez said he and his father, who co-own the land in question on Clovis’ west side, have felt “bullied,” “shorted,” “pressured” and “railroaded” by ENMWUA’s lawsuit to condemn the parcel after he declined its offers last year to purchase an easement at a price he thought too low.

The Ute Water Project (also known as the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System), was granted powers of eminent domain when it was federally authorized in 2009. The board overseeing the pipeline project connecting Clovis, Portales and surrounding communities to Quay County’s Ute Reservoir is authorized to file such condemnation suits if a full offer based on two appraisals is denied, its attorney Dave Richards has stated.

That’s what happened with the 883 by 85 foot section of land owned by Chavez, who considered the appraisers’ estimate of some $8,300 as “insufficient compensation.”

Chavez maintained that restrictions against certain development or construction on the parcel once the pipeline is installed underground would reduce its resale value, and he’s stuck fast to that point even after a judge approved ENMWUA’s easement request in January.

“We purchased this property for investment reasons, and to capitalize off of it when the time comes,” Chavez said, referring to 13 acres he and his father purchased in the mid-1990s. “And thus far the way we see it, now that this has happened, it has devalued.”

Chavez had the opportunity in court Monday morning to “show cause,” or in other words to explain to Judge David Reeb why he still had not accepted the ENMWUA check on file for him with the district court, Richards said.

But neither Chavez nor his father came to the court date. He told The News he didn’t see the point.

“I wasn’t going to partake in any of the proceedings, because they’ve gotten their way from the get go,” he said. “In my opinion, (the court) has given everything to the petitioners that they requested, and I can’t go against the court. But as far as accepting the compensation that they were wanting to give, I don’t feel that I have to accept it. Because if I accept it, it would only imply that I accepted the court’s ruling and the appraisal cost for it, which I do not accept.”

Richards said he expected Reeb would issue an order in the coming days for the appraisal check to go back into the care of ENMWUA, where it would remain for the time being, still available for Chavez’ taking.

Chavez said he estimates the value of the parcel closer to $54,000, based on adjoining city lots “affected” by the easement, and said he was willing to recruit a third appraiser to substantiate that claim.

“It might be over, then again it might not,” he said. “We’ve never been opposed about the pipeline, it’s just there was no urgency for it to come onto our land.”

Richards said there is only one other condemnation suit pending among dozens of easements negotiated between ENMWUA and various landowners, and that board members were “still in talks” with the owners of a parcel on Clovis’ southwest side currently valued at $4,350.


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