“Ripping my heart out”

Seems like the Iannones over at Ed Butts Ford aren’t the only ones with some harsh words for La Puente’s redevelopment abilities.

Victor Gudzunas, who owns the Hacienda strip mall on Hacienda Boulevard – which is home to about a dozen tenants – is accusing the city of “ripping my heart out” in the eminent domain process to seize his land.

La Puente first filed eminent domain paperwork with the courts last summer for the land, deeming it blighted. Mayor Louie Lujan has said if the city has any hope of developing a commercial retail center on the old La Puente Lanes bowling alley site, it needs Gudzunas’ land too.

But Gudzunas is holding out. And in the meanwhile, him and his attorney are accusing the city of undervaluing his land by $4 million. City appraisers value his property along the city’s main thoroughfare at $3.8 million. Gudzunas’ appraisers say its worth well over $7 million.

Talking to Gudzunas and his lawyer John Murphy last week, it was clear they felt city officials were inexperienced with redevelopment and were “botching” the eminent domain process.

A little bit of context: La Puente formed its redevelopment agency in 2003, but didn’t actually begin receiving funding for the agency until 2005. Gudzunas’ Hacienda strip mall is the first piece of property the city has ever tried to take through eminent domain. If built, the Hacienda retail project could be a prime destination spot for residents in and out of La Puente, officials have said.

In response to Gudzunas’ allegations, Lujan said he respected the city staff members and consultants determinations about the land, its value and other key points. He also said he hoped the city and Gudzunas would be able to reach a settlement before a May trial date.

Gudzunas wasn’t too sure.

Look for the story in Sunday’s paper.