Park has a proposal for Dreyfus estate
The Park Cattle Co. has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Forest Service concerning the future of Zephyr Cove’s Dreyfus estate that should be in the best interest of Park, the U.S. Forest Service and the public, Park’s attorney said Thursday.
Gordon DePaoli, attorney for Park, would not disclose more details, nor would Patricia Romiero, land acquisition specialist for the Forest Service’s regional office, estimate how long it would take to review the proposal.
“We’re acting on it as quickly as we can,” she said. “We know that’s the best thing to do for both parties.”
DePaoli and Romiero Thursday welcomed U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan and Rep. Jim Gibbons to the 10,000-square-foot, 12-bedroom Dreyfus mansion for a tour and a discussion of where negotiations stand. Both congressmen have long been interested in the land swap involving the estate, which has become an issue of controversy over the past several months. It was earlier speculated that the Forest Service wanted to tear the building down.
“To tear this place down would be a capital offense,” said Bryan, D-Nev. “I’m very sure that’s not going to happen now.”
Gibbons, R-Nev., was visiting the mansion for the first time.
“It is beyond my expectations – the building, the setting,” he said. “I just think it’s too valuable in its present condition to take a bulldozer to and trash it.”
In a land exchange valued at $38 million two years ago, the federal government gave a land-brokerage company, Olympic Group, public land around Las Vegas in exchange for the 46-acre Zephyr Cove property, which contains 3,000 feet of sandy beach, a meadow, creek, a caretaker’s cottage and the mansion.
The Forest Service had no interest in the mansion or other improvements on the property and was planning to raze them. Instead, the agency allowed Olympic Group to sell them.
Several parties were interested in purchasing the improvements, but Park, which has extensive holdings in Douglas County, ultimately made the purchase. It did so with the understanding that a special land-use permit would be issued to operate the buildings as a business.
Last year, before Park could get a permit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General began a criminal investigation into how the transaction was made.
The Forest Service has not publicly commented on the situation since then.
However, it has been speculated that Park’s request to have exclusive use of not only the estate, but also 80 acres of surrounding land, troubled the federal agency. Forest Service officials may have been concerned the federal government had spent the equivalent to $38 million on a parcel of land which Park would have almost full control.
Bryan said he felt that had nothing to do with the investigation. He said the ensuing investigation itself created problems by manifesting the appearance of impropriety.
“That brought everything to a screeching halt,” Bryan said.
The Department of Agriculture last month released the investigative report, which found no criminal wrongdoing. The report says the regional offices of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management were inexperienced in dealing with land swaps such as the Dreyfus one – the most expensive land swap in history – and that was the underlying reason for the problems hampering the exchange.
The Department of Agriculture initially refused to release details of the investigation to the public, and both Gibbons and Bryan were active in trying to make the report available to the media.
“I think Congress, both the Senate and House of Representatives, has an interest in seeing this process is done up front, that the public knows what’s going on here,” Gibbons said.
After the report’s release last month, Park and the Forest Service soon began negotiating the future of the mansion and the surrounding land. Both parties agreed not to speak about the talks publicly.
Bryan said he was confident in where negotiations were heading.
“The Forest Service is not going to negotiate something that would be incompatible with public use of the beach,” he said. “I think that’s implicit.”
Matt Mathes, spokesman for the Forest Service’s regional office, said via telephone Thursday that the federal agency’s main goal in negotiations was providing beach access to the public.
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