■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
In a previous article we delineated the basic problems that Dallas Milton, a local landowner and taxpayer, is having with the city of Hemet and its Code Enforcement Department. His problems go even deeper, as he describes.
“While the City of Hemet was pressuring me to remove the homes, they are also after me to remove the home in my barn. Meanwhile, I look over to my third eight-acre lot where two very large tanks on the hill above me regularly dump thousands of gallons of water onto my property. I assumed they had an easement to do so. I would learn, after some investigation that they have been doing this for years without any permission or authority. It has become so bad that there are ruptures and gullies from the water tank dumping water on my property all the way down to State Street. These discharges not only cause gullies, but large pools of water from tanks flood the lower four acres of my south acreage, making it unusable and not saleable. The former owner of the property who operated a golf course on the property had the same problem, I learned. On occasion he had to close down his business because of the flooding. I suppose, like him, I assumed they had a right to do this.
“It was recently explained to me that whatever easement the city of Hemet had was limited. In other words, whatever easement they claim is not so wide as to allow such a flow of water over my land.”
Much to his surprise, he learned that they had been dumping water illegally all this time without challenge.
“What is frustrating to me,” Milton says, “is while I have been dealing with the city, having to remove homes that have been there for years prior to the city’s annexation of the land, they have been dumping water illegally on my land. So I am in two places with them. On one hand they have been dumping thousands of gallons of water on my land without permission while, at the same time, asking me to live up to whatever codes they say I should be observing. The entire process is confusing to me. They want to enforce certain codes they say I am violating, while not wanting to accept responsibility for their flagrant violations of my rights. The whole thing has been very unfair and one-sided.”
As to the current status of his structure problem on his lots that are adjacent on the north side of his property, “I’ve had to remove a mobile home and a fixed structure and now they’re inspecting my barn in which I have a two-bedroom house. I wait while they make a decision, mostly likely to be in their favor as everything else has been.”
That’s his status. The real property issue is up in the air, now to deal with the flood water situation.
“I’m waiting for their answer so I can make a decision how to answer,” said Milton. “Prospective buyers have been looking at my land. Of course, one of the issues that come up is the gully that is often a river because of all that water dumped on me.”
Mr. Milton has no answer for prospects until the city takes its time in deciding how to deal with the barn and their own illegal infringement on his property.
He has noticed that the city has, without fanfare, recently redirected the piping from the tanks over to the street, bypassing his acreage.
“That redirects the water to the street adjacent to my place, which will probably end up involving state highway officials. I’ve been speaking with some of the workers who are working on the by-pass, trying to figure out a way not to flood South State Street.”
The city has yet to discuss the issue or offer Milton any compensation for the damage he has incurred because of their illegal actions.
“I did receive a phone call from someone claiming to be an assistant to the water director, stating that they haven’t been dumping water on my land, telling me that the problem I’m having is due to rain water run-off. That is patently untrue since this has been going on during our long drought when there was no rain water to run-off,” stated Milton. “So comical that it’s absurd. Thousands of gallons of water run-off does not fit the definition of ‘rain run-off’ when we haven’t had enough rainfall to keep our grass alive.”
Further, Milton and a tenant on the land went to the top of the hill where it became obvious that the gully begins at the tanks and follows down the hill to State Street. He believes it to be a long existing violation of property rights and wonders how many other property owners have had similar encounters with the city.
I welcome commentary.