In 2019, Mariposa County successfully petitioned the superior court to obtain a court receivership over Bison Creek Ranch, a property with nearly 12 years worth of notices and opportunities for the owner to correct a large number of code violations.
The large plot of land was repeatedly illegally operated as a rental venue and vacation rental by its then-owner, JDC Land Corporation LLC, and its operator Jerry Cox. These illegal uses violated the zoning laws and a written and recorded agreement with the County under State law that restricted the use of the land in exchange for significant property tax reductions for the owner. The land was nonetheless used in violation of those restrictions, while the owner still benefited from reduced property taxes.
Tourists and visitors to the property faced an array of substandard buildings and blighted conditions, unpermitted construction and modifications, illegal mining, and the use of a storage building and a dilapidated barn for overnight stays.
The superior court judge reviewed the evidence, upheld the violations, ruled that the property posed a significant danger to its guests and the community, and appointed a court receiver, the California Receivership Group (CRG), under several State laws to finally bring the property into compliance. The Court of Appeal upheld this ruling, as well as several other rulings that the owner unsuccessfully challenged. A receiver is a third party that works for the court, not the County or the owner, and at the court’s direction to effectuate compliance with the law when a private party fails to do so within a reasonable time. In this case, that was over 12 years.
After the court receiver brought the property into compliance and ordered the property sold when the owner would not reimburse the costs, CRG filed a motion to be discharged from the case and seek court approval for their fees and other expenses. Through its attorneys at the law firm Silver & Wright LLP, the County sought repeated continuances of the hearing on the receiver’s request to allow Mr. Cox more time to prepare and obtain a new attorney, who tragically passed away. Nearly two years after the receiver’s filing, Mr. Cox has an attorney and the court is now set to rule on the CRG’s requests.
Silver & Wright LLP has filed several objections, on behalf of the County, to CRG’s final accounting, in which CRG seeks a considerable amount in their fees and costs. While it is unusual for the enforcement agency to object to the court receiver’s fees, as the receiver’s fees are paid directly from the nuisance property itself, in this case, the County and its attorneys found CRG’s fees to be excessive and improper and felt compelled to oppose.
In addition to the unreasonable amount of the receiver’s request, the County and its attorneys objected to the receiver’s increase in his rate, which the court did not approve, and duplicative work that was billed.
Mariposa County and S&W LLP’s objections to CRG’s requests seek over $300,000 in reductions to their fees, as well as additional reductions.
The discharge hearing is set for November 22-23, 2021. Copies of the County’s objections and related articles are linked below.