The Lompa family is rejecting a state offer for purchase of ranch property needed to build the Carson City freeway, the family's attorney said Wednesday.
Attorney Laura FitzSimmons said the state offered $2.8 million -- around $28,000 an acre -- for 82 acres of the ranch, located just a mile east of the Capitol on Fifth Street. FitzSimmons said the family doesn't have an estimate of what they think the property is worth, "but we know they're low."
Officials at the Nevada Department of Transportation have said the Lompa property is a crucial element to freeway construction, and without the property the freeway could be stalled or split into smaller phases to keep the project moving.
Scott Magruder, state transportation spokesman, said Wednesday officials see no delay at this point to a December bid date for construction of the freeway's $136 million first phase from Lakeview Hill to Highway 50 East.
State officials estimated in 2000 the Lompa property would cost around $20,000 an acre. But in a May 2000 State Transportation Board of Directors meeting, Gov. Kenny Guinn said "nobody believes we're going to get that land for that cheap."
FitzSimmons concurred saying the statement is even more true considering the pressure for developable land in the capital. Also, a 1999 jury verdict in a similar lawsuit for freeway property at the Highway 395/Highway 50 West junction netted John Serpa $847,000 an acre for about seven acres in South Carson. While the two properties differ in the value of their locations -- Serpa's property was at the juncture of two major highways in a hot commercial development area -- the Lompa Ranch offers one thing rare in Carson City: the site of undeveloped sagebrush, pasture and wetlands stretching over 820 acres.
"Everyone recognizes the ranch is ideal for mixed use," FitzSimmons said. "There are a lot of commercial components to it; a lot of this ranch would be commercially developed. It isn't the Serpa case. It's not an $850,000-an-acre deal, but it's a hell of a lot more than $28,000 an acre."
The working cattle and sheep ranch has had developers salivating for years, but it also sits in the path of the Carson freeway right of way. For years the Lompa family has accepted the fact the freeway, and eventually development, will break up the ranch. FitzSimmons said the state should condemn the freeway acreage and then work toward a settlement.
"For many years this family has lived under the certainty that their ranch would be gutted by NDOT because it has the power to take land from people without their consent, and announced their intention to do that to this family almost 20 years ago," FitzSimmons said. "Throughout those years, the countless meetings and the different directions from which NDOT has approached this taking, the Lompa family has done nothing to delay the construction of the bypass. All they seek is a fair and prompt resolution to this issue, either by reasoned pretrial negotiation or a jury's decision."
Magruder said the power to condemn property, which would allow construction to continue while legal issues are worked out, is a transportation board decision. He said state officials would not recommend condemnation right now and are still deciding how to deal with the situation.
"We feel at this point it is in the best interest of both parties that we continue negotiations and not condemn the property," Magruder said. "If we can't come to some kind of agreement, then we'll do what we have to do."
Plans for the Carson City freeway have been in the works for more than 20 years. The four-lane freeway is expected to relieve traffic from congested Carson Street. Four bridges for the first phase of construction were finished this year. Construction on the rest of the first phase has been delayed several times as state officials awaited federal decisions on storm drainage issues that allowed them to take less of the Lompa property than anticipated. Construction on the project is expected to begin spring 2003.
The freeway's $160 million second phase will complete the project from Highway 50 East to the Spooner Summit Junction. Construction on that phase is expected to begin around 2005 and end in 2010.