City to decide fate of Mountain View owner |

City to decide fate of Mountain View owner

Jenifer Ragland

The city of South Lake Tahoe is hoping to revive what was once a popular spot for local nightlife and at the same time end a months-long dispute.

At least that would be the ideal outcome to an item on Tuesday’s City Council agenda regarding the Mountain View Club’s lease at the Lake Tahoe Airport, said Dennis Crabb, city attorney.

“From staff’s point of view, we would like to have a restaurant at the airport,” he said. “If there’s a way to resolve some of the problems – like the noise issues – and get a business out there, that’s in everybody’s best interest.”

But if Jim Matthews, club owner, rejects the city’s offer, council members will have the option of terminating the lease agreement and pursuing litigation for damages or settling Matthews’ claim.

Neither Matthews nor his attorney Dale L. Sare could be reached for comment by press time Sunday.

Crabb said the council’s decision will resolve the issue once and for all, following several months of a contentious back-and-forth between Matthews and the city.

Controversy arose when Matthews vacated his restaurant/bar at the airport in September 1996 after neighbors obtained a restraining order essentially prohibiting live music at the club.

At the time, Matthews said the restraining order caused business at the club dropped substantially and he could not afford costs of fighting the legal proceedings against him.

Members of the residential neighborhood across the airport runway from the club contended live music late at night was disruptive.

The city later issued a notice of default for Matthews’ alleged failure to make lease payments and other violations. This decision was upheld in December by the Airport Commission.

Tuesday’s hearing is an appeal of the Airport Commission’s decision, Crabb said. Council members can uphold that ruling or revoke it based on Matthews’ testimony.

But complicating things further is a $280,000 claim that Matthews filed against the city on Feb. 21, which alleges that city employees violated the lease agreement by not disclosing the potential for noise complaints and for violating his right to “quiet enjoyment” – a doctrine in state law that is designed to prevent landlord interference with leased property, Crabb said.

He said the city’s position is that Matthews’ allegations are unfounded, and that if his claim is rejected, he cannot sue the city because the City Council’s decision in final and binding.

However, rather than terminate the lease and end up going to court for back rent and damages to airport property, the City Council could opt to settle the claim.

“Ultimately the decision is for council on whether to settle or proceed to litigation,” Crabb said. “Everybody is just trying to find way settle this in everyone’s best interest.”

Crabb said Matthews originally asked for $30,000 in compensation – the amount he says he invested in the property through capital improvements – and the city’s counter-offer was $8,250.

Negotiations attempting to bridge that gap are still ongoing, Crabb said, which is why the issue had been postponed twice from the initial hearing date of Feb. 24.

Should the council enter into legal matters, a closed session is scheduled immediately following the public hearing, which is slated for 4 p.m. Tuesday in City Council Chambers, 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

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