Mt. Umunhum Road where the McQueen property begins. It might take eminent domain to gain public access to the summit.
I’ve been following the Mt. Umunhum soap opera for more than 30 years, but now the last act is about to be played: Eminent Domain.
It’s the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s (MROSD) ace card, held in reserve until it ran out of options.
That time is now. The road to the summit, originating at Hicks Road, is supposed to open to the public in October 2016, but MROSD can’t get an easement across the McQueen family (Scott and Randee) land through which the upper reach of the road passes.
Without an easement, there can’t be a grand opening. From all appearances, eminent domain is MROSD’s last resort. The staff recommendation to pursue eminent domain will be taken up by the MROSD board at a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m.
Probably of lesser importance, but still calling for eminent domain, is access to a road leading to nearby Mt. Thayer, the land apparently owned by Michael Rossetta and Leonard Rossetta.
For anyone unfamiliar with eminent domain, it basically means the government takes your land, although it has to pay a fair price. In this case, it’s about $380,000 for an easement to use the road crossing the McQueen land.
When the Air Force shut down its radar station at the mountain summit in 1980, the land was put up for sale. MROSD swooped in an bought it. The original owner, Loren McQueen, who sold his land to the Air Force, didn’t have a chance to buy it back.
At least that’s one version of the story. McQueen never forgave MROSD and put up roadblocks, literally and figuratively, to prevent the agency from developing the land for open space.
He claimed the Air Force easement to use the road crossing his land expired, if the base shut down. I don’t doubt him on that point.
While McQueen is the primary obstacle, other landowners haven’t been accommodating either. Most were bought out by MROSD, eventually.
I think both sides in this dispute share some blame for not settling their differences, especially now that Mr. McQueen is gone. He was your classic curmudgeon.
His children, I’m told, are reasonable people who went out of their way to help out with a time trial bike ride up Mt. Umunhum, granting access to their part of the road.
If it were up to me, I would lease the Mt. Umunhum cube to the McQueen business, Communication Control Inc. (CCI), at a fair price in exchange for opening the road.
That would preserve the cube, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on where you stand on the matter.
I have no problem seeing the cube, and a fence around it. CCI owns the facility on Black Mountain off Monte Bello Road, also on MROSD land, and it doesn’t bother me in the least seeing it there.
I wrote a lengthy article on this topic way back in 1986. It’s available here for anyone who wants to delve into the history: The Last Outpost.