Commissioners raise questions over stalled Forest Service permit for Dreyfus mansion
Questions about a stalled Forest Service special use permit which would allow the Park Cattle Co. of Stateline to operate a bed and breakfast-style conference center at the Dreyfus mansion at Zephyr Cove were topmost in Douglas County commissioners’ minds when they met with Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., at a special meeting this week.
“Where do we stand and where are we going?” Commissioner Kelly Kite asked. “Money was transferred, papers signed and promises were made. All of a sudden, we’ve got nothing.”
Kite said that a representative from the Forest Service had met with the commissioners at Lake Tahoe and promised to work with both the county and Bruce Park, who heads Park Cattle Co.
“We were told then it was a done deal,” Kite said Friday.
The deal, which appears to have been only partially done, concerns the mansion, caretaker’s quarters and a six-car garage which occupy a portion of the 47-acre lake front property formerly belonging to New York mutual fund manager Jack Dreyfus. The entire estate was acquired by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management last year in a $38 million deal brokered by the Olympic Group, a part of Olympic Land, Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz. The exchange was handled through Olympic’s Las Vegas office.
The BLM then transferred management of the property to the Department of Agriculture’s U.S.Forest Service. The Forest Service, which considered the high-maintenance house, caretaker’s quarters and six-car garage liabilities it was not budgeted to assume, authorized Olympic to sell them.
Enter the Park Cattle Co. and Travel Systems Ltd. of Marla Bay who were both interested in the property. Both companies have had businesses in the Tahoe Basin for many years – Park has the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and TSL has the Zephyr Cove Lodge and the M.S. Dixie.
Guy Inzalaco, an Olympic Group partner, said Friday he and Forest Service representatives met with both companies.
“In the end, the Forest Service liked what the Parks had planned for the buildings,” Inzalaco said. “Since the house has 10 bedrooms, Park’s plan for a bed and breakfast conference center made sense.”
Inzalaco said the issue with Park’s special use permit never came up until an internal investigation in the Department of Agriculture put it on hold.
The Department of Agriculture Inspector General’s Office attorneys had begun researching the legality of several earlier land swaps in the Lake Tahoe area, Inzalaco said.
And the permit became stalled indefinitely when IG attorneys forwarded a report to the Department of Justice, which initiated a criminal investigation.
Douglas County commissioners had supported Park’s request, seeing it as an opportunity to return at least a portion of the property’s value to the county’s tax rolls.
“Why are we victims of the investigation?” Kite asked.
Sen. Bryan, who had pushed for the transfer by meeting with both Jack Dreyfus and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in the early stages of the land exchange, reassured commissioners the investigation began before the Dreyfus purchase.
Bryan said,to his knowledge, none of the Inspector General’s report involved Bruce Park or the Park Cattle Co. The IG’s concerns were with the land exchange process – particularly in the areas of property appraisals and local notification and participation.
“They (Park and his family company) were just caught up in the tail of the investigation,” Bryan said. “In fairness, I don’t know what can be done. As long as the investigation is on-going, it has a paralyzing effect – we’re in a holding pattern. We want to work with them (Park) because I don’t believe they’ve been treated fairly.”
Inzalaco echoed Bryan’s sentiments Friday.
“The Parks have worked very hard to meet all the Forest Service requirements,” he said. “An unfortunate set of circumstances has them caught in the department’s internal politics in Washington.”
Bruce Park said Wednesday he understood the problems from both sides.
“We’re still ready, willing and able to get a permit and run a conference center,” Park said. “We want a solution.”
And Bill Chernock, who represents Travel Systems Ltd., said his company is still interested as well.
“There is still a piece of property, about 38 acres, between our operation and the Dreyfus house that hasn’t had a use assigned,” Chernock said. “There are four parties interested in it and what type of use it will be put to. At the least, we’d like to see an exit (from Nevada Beach) at Warrior Way to take some of the heat off our access to Highway 50. We’d like to be at the table (with the Forest Service, Douglas County and Park Cattle Co.) when that use is discussed.
“At this point, though, everything is on the table and nothing is on the table until this issue is settled.”
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