Hansen's Truck Stop prevails in eminent domain lawsuit Caltrans awards $2.5 million

photo captions:

Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

1. Charles Hansen, Jr. in his office. The truck stop is closed but Hansen Wire Rope is still doing business.

2. Hansen's Truck Stop Cafe, closed just before Christmas 2010. Seventeen people lost their jobs in the closure.

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Hansen's Truck Stop and the Hansen family have been awarded more than $2.5 million in an eminent domain lawsuit involving the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and building of the Roger M. Rodoni Memorial Interchange at Alton.

A Humboldt County Superior Court Jury issued its decision on Wednesday, Feb. 9, after an eight-day trial heard by the Honorable Judge Dale A. Reinholtzen.

The lawsuit was filed by Caltrans in December 2007. A statement released by Caltrans said "To build the interchange, it was necessary to acquire a narrow portion (1.7 acres) of property of the 13.5 plus acre holding on which Hansen's Truck Stop and other Hansen operations were doing business."

Caltrans said it would also require the closure of an access opening from the truck stop directly onto Highway 101. Before the case went to trial, Caltrans' offer of nearly $800,000 was rejected by the Hansen family.

The $2.5 million award represents the value of the property and estimated loss of income. It was the result of the second of a two phase trial. Hansen Truck Stop and family attorney Tom Becker said the first phase was held in September 2009, "which determined that the highway project (Alton Interchange) substantially impaired the value of the property owned by the Hansen family." The second phase was for the jury to determine a monetary compensation amount.

According to a statement, "Caltrans received legal rulings in the first phase of the trial, which strongly impacted the rest of the case. In the weeks ahead, Caltrans will be reviewing its options to pursue an appeal of those legal rulings."

Both Caltrans and the Hansen family were complimentary of the jurors in this case. "We respect and are appreciative of the hard work and attention given by the jurors in this case," the Caltrans statement said. Chas Hansen said, "On behalf of myself and the Hansen family, we would like to thank the jury for their time and doing their homework. They studied the case," he said, "and we really appreciate that."

Hansen's Truck Stop closed its doors just before Christmas, laying off 17 people. "We were losing money every day," said Charles Hansen Jr., better known as Chas. "We took all the employees out to dinner to thank them with a heavy heart," he added, and then said, "I still get emotional when I talk about it."

Chas' father Charlie Hansen, Sr. had an ongoing battle over property issues with Caltrans, dating back to 1950. "Dad used to say 'what if I hadn't been successful ... the government would have come in and taken my land and I wouldn't have had the money to fight them.'" The senior Hansen passed away in December of 2009 at the age of 94 of a stroke.

Concerning what's left of the Hansen enterprise, Dianne Hansen, Chas' wife said, "We aren't sure about future business yet as the whole issue is loss of access. Chas would like to research any opportunities. He will try and keep his wire rope, scrap metal and gravel depts running. The property is in the Coastal Zone and is subject to unreasonable regulations. To put in a mini mart and gas station would cost much more than awarded." Chas' father had hopes of doing that.

"After spending thousands of dollars, the Hansen family has finally prevailed," Chas added.

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