County reaches tentative settlement on subdivision improvements

Mohave County has agreed to pave roads and install other improvements in a subdivision north of Kingman under a tentative settlement reached with the property owner who sued the county.

Attorneys for the county and Patti Lewis reached the agreement Sept.

10 to resolve her lawsuit over paying for roads and utility service in the Lake Juniper Estates subdivision west of Stockton Hill Road two miles north of Kingman.

The county supervisors are scheduled to consider the settlement when they meet Monday.

The developer lost ownership of the subdivision to the county in 1999.

"I'm glad that it looks like it has been decided so that we can go on and get it done and move on," District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers said.

Byers defeated Lewis and former Kingman resident Pat Bourque in the Republican primary for supervisor in September 2000.

Lewis could not be reached for comment.

However, her attorney, Jared Smith of Kingman, said he was pleased with the settlement.

"I'm very pleased that we were finally able to work together and reach an agreement that will make the subdivision an attractive place to live," Smith said.

"It could not have been accomplished without creative, good-faith negotiations.

We went through an all-day session without lunch.

We just needed to do some checking to make sure that our agreements were workable.

We hope the Board of Supervisors will approve the settlement as it represents a fair resolution of a difficult situation."

Smith and County Attorney Bill Ekstrom agreed to a request by Michael Burke, a visiting judge in Mohave County Superior Court, to submit the case for arbitration.

Leonard Langford, a retired Superior Court judge, served as the arbitrator.

The agreement may undergo some minor changes before the supervisors approve it, "to clarify some issues," Ekstrom said.

He declined to go into specifics about those issues.

He said Lewis has owned property at the 73-lot subdivision for about eight years.

Developer Richard Neal built the subdivision, but he never completed improvements.

Because Neal put up land as assurances in the event that he did not complete the development, the county assumed ownership of the subdivision.

Superior Court Judge Steven Conn sentenced Neal in May 2001 to three years in state prison after he was convicted of forging the signatures of former County Supervisor Carol Anderson and Superior Court Judge Randy Bartlett.

"It has taken several years for the county to liquidate" the property to pay for the improvements, Ekstrom said.

The county sold more than 65 acres to real estate agent Robert Gillham for more than $248,000 during an auction in October 1999.

He said the county started work on a water system about eight months ago, will pave roads and make arrangements for other services.

He added money from the auction will pay for the improvements while indicating that the county could assume additional costs.

"We are hopeful that we will be able to resolve all the remaining issues for the ultimate benefit of both property owners and the county," Ekstrom said.

Ekstrom said the lawsuit prompted the supervisors to adopt a policy in which land may not be used as assurances because land is more difficult to liquidate than bonds or letters of credit.

The installation of the utilities will increase the value of the property, Gillham said.

Gillham, who moved from Kingman to St.

Johns, bought the land for clients who wanted to split the property into smaller lots.

"I could sell it right now as fast as I want to," Gillham said.

However, Gillham said he does not want to split the land into parcels fewer than five acres because he wants to maintain its rural character.