James Hopkins knows that when the government wants your land, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. He just wants what he thinks is a fair price.
It’s why Hopkins was in court last month arguing against the Camp Verde Sanitary District.
Hopkins figures he’s got a little bit of heaven on his property nestled away just off Main Street. The land has a long history with Hopkins’ family; it was part of his grandmother’s original homestead a century ago.
It was sold off for a few years, but when Hopkins’ family wanted a place of their own to resettle in Camp Verde, they bought some of it back from the Wingfields. Hopkins still calls the land home, for both him and his horses, and today he still sits drinking iced tea on the porch of the house his father built.
The particular piece of land at the center of the court’s attention is a narrow strip running right across his property, an easement condemned for the sanitary district’s sewer expansion project.
Hopkins said he’s been offered $6,000 for the property, but he thinks it’s worth more. He’s not sure exactly how much more, but he’s gotten a few letters and opinions from friends who worked in the appraisal business that tend to make him think he should fight for it.
Last month, a judge tentatively scheduled some time in January for both Hopkins and the sanitary district to make their arguments.
The sanitary district has been trying to get another appraiser to come to Hopkins’ land, but Hopkins said he’s tired of dealing with the district, and he doesn’t want anybody on his land more than necessary.
“They told me that if I didn’t let them on my property, then they’d get an injunction against me,” Hopkins said. “I told them to go ahead and do that.”
A lawyer for the sanitary district told the court that, basically, all he would need to do was put a qualified appraiser on the stand.
While Hopkins doesn’t have a crystal ball to see how the issue over the value of his property turns out, Hopkins said the new sewer line has caused him headaches in other areas that Hopkins said might have to become another legal matter.
He’s afraid that angles in the sewer line will force workers to have to access his land for maintenance much more than he’s comfortable with.
His property is home to large trees well over 100 years old. Hopkins said that when workers dug up his land, they damaged the ancient root system. Already, Hopkins said, one of his trees is looking half-dead.
If the trees die, Hopkins doesn’t want to be held financially accountable for getting rid of them.
He’s also concerned by raised manholes installed on his property, sticking up inches above the ground.
“I’m afraid one of my horses is going to break their legs on them,” Hopkins said.
As for the manholes, the sanitary district says there is not much they can do. Hopkins’ property is in a floodplain, and the district has to conform with certain rules mandated by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
While ADEQ didn’t return phone calls about an inspection of the property conducted in April, district board member Al Dupuy said that the district is doing everything on Hopkins’ property in accordance with ADEQ guide lines.
The district, already strapped for cash following months of unexpected mounting expenses, is trying to make the best use of its money without putting more debt on the backs of its members.
As for Hopkins, he’s hoping to get his arguments prepared for January and let the chips fall where they may.