Family seeks appraisal of Groom Lake property near Area 51

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How do you put a price on history, especially when that history involves growing up in the shadow of Area 51? Last weekend, the Sheahan family began the process of putting a price tag on land taken from them by the U.S. government.

The I-Team’s Glen Meek has the exclusive story of how the family plans to appraise a highly unique parcel of land.

8 News NOW rode along with the Sheahan family as they approached the perimeter of Area 51. The Sheahans were not intruders; they were invited.

Until recently, the Sheahans owned a mining camp overlooking the secret test base at Groom Dry Lake. In September, the Air Force took the property through eminent domain after the Sheahans declined a $5.2 million buyout offer, which the family called woefully inadequate.

“This is a very unique property. It’s going to be one of those properties which is going to require a very unique and particular type of appraisal analysis because of its unique aspect,” said Sheahan family attorney James Leavitt.

The property is unique for being the last privately owned parcel within the test area surrounding Area 51. The Air Force said in a press release it needed the land to ensure the safety and security of testing there, which began in the 1950’s. The Sheahans owned the land since the 1880’s.

Now that the Air Force has taken the property, the remaining issue before a court is how much the government must pay for the land.

That’s what brought the Sheahans out last weekend. They are beginning the appraisal process and itemizing personal property for eventual removal.

But, how do you put a price on a century of family history?

“Our history is something that they can’t take away from me. Now, the personal property, that’s different. We want our personal property back. There’s 130 years spread over 400 acres,” said Groom Mine heir Joe Sheahan.

In future visits, under the watchful eye of Air Force security, experts will accompany the Sheahans to the mine site to try to put a value on the land itself – which may be unique in all of the United States.

“Not only the unique aspect that it’s located in the area of Area 51, you have the minerals which are in the property,” Leavitt said. “You have the water, which is in the property, and we’ve been looking at the other historical aspects of the property. This property, again, has been in their family since 1880.”

In court papers, the Air Force valued the 400 acres at $1.2 million. The Sheahans say they want a federal jury to decide what it’s worth.

The Sheahans would like to see the Groom Mine protected as a national historical site, although tourists probably won’t be able to visit there in the foreseeable future.

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