Park submits new Dreyfus proposal |

Park submits new Dreyfus proposal

by Christy Chalmers

The Park Cattle Co. has submitted a proposal that would allow public use of the Dreyfus Estate buildings and is awaiting a response from the U.S. Forest Service.

Park attorney Gordon DePaoli would not elaborate on the company’s plan, but he said approval would allow public use of the 12,500-square-foot house, which overlooks Lake Tahoe’s Zephyr Cove.

“We’re working on a resolution of the situation,” he said. “It will not involve tearing it down.”

The development follows months of bureaucratic wrangling that produced a tentative order to bulldoze the structure, followed by pressure from Nevada’s congressional delegation to save the house.

U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., and Congressman Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., toured the house Thursday. Both have been lobbying the Forest Service to save the structure and allow Park Cattle Co. to operate it as a conference center.

The Forest Service obtained the 47-acre parcel on which the house sits as part of a land swap in 1997, but the exchange didn’t include the house or a six-car garage and caretaker’s cottage because the Forest Service didn’t want either structure. The house is valued at $3 million.

Park bought the buildings with the understanding the Forest Service would issue the necessary permits to rent them for conferences, weddings and similar events. Forest Service officials surprised Park and local leaders with the revelation that the agency might demand removal of the buildings.

Gibbons and Bryan said they’re confident the threat to the buildings has been averted and they hope a resolution between Park and the Forest Service will be reached within 30 days. DePaoli and Forest Service officials Ed Gee and Patricia Romeiro indicated they don’t think 30 days is a realistic deadline, though they are working together.

Gibbons, who had not personally visited the estate before Thursday, was impressed with the spacious house and the spectacular views offered from nearly every window. He and Bryan marveled at the wood floors and other elegant appointments throughout the house.

“You see this and you become furious someone would talk about tearing it down,” said Bryan. “You can see why this provoked a little tension.”

“It would be a tragedy,” said Gibbons, who asked permission before carrying a soft drink and cookies away from a serving area during the tour.

Bryan said he thinks the Forest Service recommendation to demolish the house resulted from an investigation of the underlying land exchange. The investigation found no wrongdoing, but Bryan said it left an aura of distrust that led to “paralysis” of the permit process for Park.

“I think that brought the process to a screeching halt,” said Bryan. “I think the bureaucracy tends to react to this by putting everything on hold. I think the folks upstairs got a little bit panicky.”

Gibbons said increasing disclosure and public information about land swaps will be key to preventing similar situations. In the case of the Dreyfus Estate, the presence of buildings that weren’t part of the trade led to some confusion.

“The complexity of that gives the impression that it was either an incomplete transaction, when it wasn’t, or that somebody was getting something that wasn’t part of the deal,” said Gibbons. “We need more public disclosure on the events in any transactions like this so that we don’t leave a presumption that something went wrong or someone benefited unnecessarily.”

Bryan agreed, adding public scrutiny is healthy. He also emphasized the Dreyfus exchange will benefit the public despite the earlier problems.

“I think we’re past that now,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”