- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A lawyer for a family suing the government over seizure of land the Air Force claims is needed for pilot training in southern Nevada said new appraisals show the property near Area 51 is worth more than 100 times what the government is offering.

James Leavitt, a lawyer for the Sheahan family, says the value of the 400-acre Groom Mine property covering about 400 acres north of Las Vegas is worth more than $40 million - well above the Air Force’s appraisal of $333,300.

Leavitt told the Las Vegas Review-Journal (https://tinyurl.com/hjmh7tc) that independent appraisals ranging from $44 million to $116 million were provided last week during discovery proceedings in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.

Air Force officials initially offered $5.2 million for the land owned by 22 members of the Sheahan family. But the Air Force rescinded what it said was the final offer’ last fall, seized the land and now appraise it at $333,300.

Leavitt says the family is prepared to go to trial if the government continues to ignore its constitutional right to just compensation.

“This is a prime example of the federal government overstepping its boundaries and bullying its own people as though the law doesn’t apply to them,” he said.

Officials at Nellis Air Force Base did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday from The Associated Press.

Last year, the Air Force contended that the family’s activities over the past several years have handicapped its efforts to use the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The Area 51 installation has been used since the 1950s to test high-tech aircraft including the U-2 spy plane and the radar-evading F-117 Nighthawk.

Leavitt said the property is unique because before it was the only privately held acreage with a view of Area 51 before it was seized.

The Sheahan family’s stake in the property includes six patented mining claims involving silver, lead, copper, zinc and gold.

The family’s legal team also submitted documents to the court intended to establish other facts, including one expert report that refers to an incendiary bomb that struck the Groom Mine mill building in 1954.

“The Air Force has never acknowledged that it ever happened,” said Joe Sheahan, a grandson of the original owners. “We believe they did it on purpose to drive my grandfather and grandmother out.”

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, https://www.lvrj.com

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