Developer will be paid $5.8 million for bypass property |

Developer will be paid $5.8 million for bypass property

Amanda Hammon

Developer John Serpa said he hopes other landowners don’t have to fight the same battle he has had with the Nevada Department of Transportation over land taken for the Carson bypass.

“Thirteen years is a long time,” Serpa said. “It was a long hard fight. It’s not something land owners should have to go through, and I’m glad it’s over.”

After a 13-year dispute with NDOT about roughly 7 acres of land in south Carson City, a District Court jury on Friday awarded Serpa $5.8 million.

The eight-person jury decided after a week-long trial before District Judge Michael Griffin that Serpa was entitled to the award plus interest which could add up to $2 million to the award. The jury verdict put the price per acre around $847,000.

The dispute centered on the land near the U.S. Highway 395/Highway 50 junction in south Carson City. The land surrounds the four-story, white Landmark Building that sits at the turn-off to Lake Tahoe. The building stands empty now but once was home to the Nevada Commission on Economic Development and started its life as part of a casino development.

Serpa purchased the land in the early ’80s, hoping to one day sell it for retail development.

“Look at Wal-Mart and Target. Everybody wants to build in south Carson,” Serpa said. “The intersection of (Highways) 395 and 50 is a center for Tahoe, Carson City and Douglas County. It’s the best intersection you could have in town.”

NDOT announced the construction of the bypass in 1986. Serpa’s land was condemned and in 1993 the state paid him $940,000.

Serpa said he didn’t think the state’s appraisal of $6 per square foot was fair market value for the property. Serpa hired a separate appraiser who priced the land around $22 per square foot, for a total of $6.4 million.

Pierre Gezelin, a deputy attorney general for NDOT, said he didn’t know if NDOT would appeal the decision. He added that he respected the jury’s decision.

“We presented the evidence in our case and the jury determined it wasn’t a fair appraisal,” Gezelin said. “If that’s what they say it’s worth, that’s what it’s worth.”

Serpa said he’s spent around $100,000 in the past two years fighting NDOT.

“In the last 13 years, I’ve spent mostly frustration, which is more than hard dollars,” Serpa said. “I feel sorry for the people who have to go through this. It’s a very hard situation to deal with.”

Serpa’s lawyer Laura FitzSimmons said the verdict was an example of how the government can’t take land without offering fair compensation.

“People need to know they should stand up to (NDOT),” FitzSimmons said. “Serpa felt that NDOT had treated him unfairly, and he had the ability to stand up to them and fight this to the end. Most people with whom NDOT deals can’t do that. That’s what they count on, having most people just accept what is offered to them.”

Serpa has one more lawsuit to face regarding the property. The building and the acre it sits on will be the focus of a separate trial set for May 2000.

FitzSimmons said the parties had settled the case out of court but NDOT backed out of the deal. NDOT Deputy Attorney General Norman Allen said the essentials of the agreement had been worked out but the two parties couldn’t agree on the location of a billboard on the property.

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