Elect Sam Toll For County Commissioner
V&T Depot in 1983. © Germino Archive

Letter To The Editor: Eminent Domain Is Not How We Steal Eyesores From Our Neighbors

Editors Note: The Teller has interviewed Pierce Powell and have reached out to Commissioner McBride and County Manager Whitten for comment on this matter. We have a piece prepared and are waiting for our county leaders input to finish the piece.
Stay Tuned…

Comstock Eminent Domain
Open Letter to Storey County 10-06-2017
I understand County Manager Pat Whitten is discussing invoking Eminent Domain on the Old V&T Freight Depot in Virginia City, owned by Pierce Powell. It’s never been invoked before in Storey County where we value individual property rights, but now it’s being discussed in Commissioners Meetings. Is this discussion because of a dire need for the County to purchase more property for Public Use or is it just payback for the past perceived un-acceptable lifestyle practiced by the Owner Pierce Powell?
Pat’s a good man and I consider him a friend but I’m afraid he’s been changed by instant celebrity. When he took the job, the county was a very small rural community with problems like Wild Horses crapping on C St. and the Ghost of Joe Conforte.
Now within a few years it has gone from that to National Attention involving Billionaire World Stage Business Moguls and gigantic growth, staggering the imagination. How can this instant celebrity not influence anyone? Talk about instant Power and the human psyche. Boy Howdy! He needs to come back down to earth and again think about us common residents, our simple problems and our individual rights as citizens. We might be forced to warm up some tar and pluck a few chickens.
Some County Officials consider Pierce a Non-Conformist, Pot Smoking Hippie from Silver City and believe this is despicable behavior. That was 20 plus years ago. Old Grudges die hard and have no place in our County Government.
I’ve heard Pat describe the Depot as an “EYESORE”. Well that “EYESORE” is exactly why I moved here 40 plus years ago. When tourists arrive and see it, they feel they’ve stepped back in time. We all believed the Depot was just the way it was in the 1870’s and it is perhaps one of the few buildings left still in its original form!
V&T Depot from D Street 1985 © Germino Archive


I first visited VC in 1948 with my parents. We were in awe of the wonderful “EYESORES” we saw. The Depot, Pipers, Washoe Club and the Delta. We felt we were actually in the Old West. That’s when I decided I had to live here at some time in my life.
It’s probably not well known but Pierce is a 79 year old Army Artillery Veteran and a very intelligent individual who cares greatly about the history of the area and particularly the V&T Freight Depot. In spite of comments from the Court House, the Depot isn’t falling down but Pierce does need some Historic Preservation advice and help. Dr. T. Allen Comp has agreed to give his old friend Pierce this consultation. Pierce is considering selling the building but not to the current officials who are badmouthing him. There’s bad blood there and that needs to change.
Does the county need more Property? It’s been mentioned it will be used for community activities. The County also owns the old bank building for the same reason as well as other property’s now leased by Charitable Organizations. Each property has been removed from the Tax Roles. How does this help us poor slobs who pay the property taxes that run this county?
If the county insists on pursuing this course of action I will be one of the people carrying a placard on the picket line in front of the court house 
The court fight will be a great cost to the county because there are many of us who will pay for counsel and I understand there are residents of the county who are attorneys in this particular field and will work Pro-Bono on this issue.
Many of us love that old “EYESORE” just the way it is. The famous Ghost Town of Bodie California has nothing but “EYESORES”. That’s the Old West! It’s called “Arrested Decay”.
This issue is reminiscent of the Gold Hill Depot problem. It seemed that problem was more about County Officials not liking Kim Fegert than it was about any other issue. Now that Depot sits empty most of the time. It’s time to get peoples personalities out of the Equation.
The county should concentrate more on the really serious property issues rather than the wonderful “EYESORE”.

V&T Eyesore in 1987 © Germono Archive.
As an example, allowing the Comstock Cemetery Foundation to illegally build a fence sealing private property inside the Cemetery and blocking legal access. The Comstock Cemetery Foundation moved the original Northern Fence Line of the Masonic Cemetery down the hill to encompass the Historic Access Haul road to the Union Consolidated and Agasizz Patented Mining claims.
The county then moved a house from B Street to the Cemetery and placed it in a position to further impede this right-of-way. This blocks access to Patented Mining Claims as well as individual property owners in this and other areas.
The owners of these properties wish to sell their properties but cannot because they have no access. When confronted with questions about these issues the County Manager said “Sue Us”. Well it’s probably the correct answer because that’s the only way to get the County’s attention. Thanks for the Help County!
In any case, these owners don’t have the financial resources to sue the county to get back their access rights that were taken illegally. Hopefully they can get another caring Attorney to take the case Pro-Bono. The county has not been willing to take any action regarding these issues.
This also brings to mind the Virginia City Platt Map that was recorded on 17 August 1865 in the State of Nevada which was rejected by the Federal Government on 4 January 1868 because it didn’t meet their requirements. The Platt was never re-submitted. This means this map is not legal. The County has been collecting Taxes and selling surface rights to mining property illegally without either deeds or legal paperwork from the mining companies that own the property and who paid taxes on that property. This is a Violation of Federal and Nevada Law. The BLM has details on this issue.
The title companies know of this and that’s why it’s almost impossible to get a Title Company to deal with any property in Virginia City, a big problem for all property owners.
The problems described only affect Virginia City and the Comstock Mining District and have no effect on other parts of the county such as TRI.
The County is aware of these issues and has made the decision to bury this gigantic “Can of Worms” however the lid is now off the Can.
Since we’re going to be one of the richest counties in Nevada, we should certainly have the resources to handle the Complicated and Expensive Property Issues I’ve described. Stop kicking the can down the road and tackle the important issues and not Eminent Domain.
Since we now have Billionaires buying property in the County, they may be an excellent resource in preserving the past and future of the town that built Nevada. We just need one Wild West History Lover with money!
Hopefully the “Old Pat” will re-emerge!
Don Ayer
40 plus Year Resident and property owner (maybe and maybe not) of Virginia City and a Lover of the “EYESORE” Just the way it is!
Elect Sam Toll For County Commissioner

About Sam Toll

Sam Toll is a native of Gold Hill and returned home in 2016 after 35 years in the Sacramento Valley. He enjoys old cars and loud music. And writing.

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  1. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I believe in the late ’80’s, the Public Works building on the Divide burned. It dated from the 19th century. The entire building didn’t burn to the ground, though it was quite a conflagration. I was told that Pierce salvaged all the unburned wood & windows from the site & that this historic salvage is stored in the depot. Does anyone know if this is correct?

  2. I couldn’t agree more! I love the “eyesores”. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with any one protesting our current Commissioners and County Manager!

  3. Your eyesore is my childhood memory. I believe we have a law about tearing down old buildings and I don’t think this effort to skirt them is just. Plain and simple, any way you look at it, eminent domain is theft.

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