Federal court delays Carson’s BLM land sale suit
Appeal Staff Writer
Carson City’s lawsuit to stop a contentious land sale in Douglas County will be delayed after the federal government and Douglas County objected to evidence submitted by the city.
Attorneys representing the U.S. Department of the Interior and Douglas County asked the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to suspend the court’s briefing schedule and throw out Carson’s request for a summary judgment.
Officials said Friday they were unsure how much additional time the court would take to render a decision in the case in light of the recent actions, putting the sale of the land to two major Carson auto dealers on hold indefinitely.
Carson City is suing the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management for going forward with the sale of 144 acres in northern Douglas County, contending that proper economic and environmental studies were not completed as promised.
The city is arguing the sale would severely hurt Carson’s economy by taking retail dollars away. Officials said they believe the sale could result in auto dealers, who make up 20 percent of the city’s retail revenue base, moving across county lines. The city is expecting to spend up to $300,000 in attorney fees for the suit.
Douglas County has sided with the federal government against Carson.
Attorneys for Carson asked the court to resolve the case with a summary judgment by making a decision based on statements and evidence without a trial. It would enable a judge to determine there is no dispute of the facts in the case and one party is entitled to a favorable decision.
Judge James Robertson granted BLM’s request to indefinitely delay the court schedule and asked Carson City to respond by Tuesday to the request to throw out the summary judgment .
Last week’s actions will delay the pending sale by the BLM to two Carson auto dealers who are gathering financing in expectation of a judgment in the next two weeks.
Michael Hohl, who owns six auto and RV dealerships in Carson City, and A.M. “Dink” Cryer, owner of Carson Dodge Chrysler, partnered to make the winning bid on the public land in August for $14.6 million.
The court issued an order days before the sale that allowed the BLM to go ahead with the auction Aug. 6.
With the order, Robertson declared the case would be heard and a final decision made by the end of October.
The deadline will be delayed until a judgment is made on the other requests.
“It’s just going to take more time,” said Carson City Manager Linda Ritter. ” I don’t know if it does anything detrimental.”
Carson’s attorneys with Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C., have since filed evidence in the case which included testimony that Douglas County and federal government say was not available to the BLM before it made its decision to auction the land.
“Carson filed some evidence to support its motion for summary judgment. This has to do with separating some of that out for the case,” said Jo Simpson, spokeswoman for the BLM in Nevada. “We’re waiting to hear what the court will do with that.”
Douglas County responded by asking the court last week to “strike declarations and exhibits submitted” by the city. Attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice, representing the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, filed a request to delay the schedule for briefing and a motion to strike Carson’s motion for a summary judgment.
Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle said the purpose of filing the request was to ask that extra information be removed from the court case records to ensure the judge makes a decision based on the information the BLM had at the time it sold the property. The county asked for a quick decision on the request.
“We want a decision as quick as we can get one to keep everything moving,” Doyle said.
Simpson said the BLM doesn’t expect the delay will affect the pending sale if a final judgment is made in BLM’s favor. The appraised fair-market value for the land, $7.5 million, is good for only one year, but it was exceeded by the final priced at auction.
“The bidder was way above the appraisal, so that’s probably not an issue,” Simpson said. However, the deal can’t close until the court case is resolved.