Area 51 neighbors reject $5.2 million Air Force buyout offer

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Land overlooking the top-secret Area 51 facility has been owned by the same family for 130 years. Now its owners are claiming years of bullying and abuse at the hands of the Air Force, to whom they recently refused to sell their land to for $5.2 million.

Land overlooking the top-secret Area 51 facility has been owned by the same family for 130 years. Now its owners are claiming years of bullying and abuse at the hands of the Air Force, to whom they recently refused to sell their land to for $5.2 million.

The Sheahan family has been extracting lead and silver from Groom Mine since Grover Cleveland was in the White House, at the end of the 19th Century, long before the nearby installation was established by the federal government in 1955 to test experimental aircraft technology.

Joe Sheahan, 54, broke a 60-year silence last week about his family’s very real tale of the trials and tribulations that come alongside being located next to Area 51, which has perhaps been the subject of more urban legends and conspiracy theories than any other place in the United States.

But the only thing creepy to the Sheahan family is the number of problems associated with having the nation’s most secretive base in their back yard.

The most recent chapter in their story is an offer of $5.2 million from the Air Force that runs the secret base. The Sheahans said on Monday that they refused, prompting the Air Force to threaten to use eminent domain to seize the property on September 10 if the family doesn’t accept the offer, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The Henderson, Nevada-based family says that their 400 acres of mining-rich land is worth considerably more.

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But it’s not just the silver beneath the ground that the Sheahans want money for. They want compensation for the “abuses and atrocities” that they have suffered for over half a century. They said that an ore processing mill was destroyed by an explosion caused by a jet’s bomb or dropped fuel tank, and that they were showered with radioactive fallout from above-ground nuclear tests in the 1950s.

The family’s grandparents tried to get compensated for the destroyed mill in court, but eventually ran out of money and couldn’t continue with legal proceedings.

"They went to the poorhouse trying to win their case of the mill that was destroyed by the Air Force. We have some evidence they absolutely were the culprits in that, and it was never addressed," Barbara Sheahan-Manning, Groom Mine co-owner, told Las Vegas Now. "They literally ran our grandparents out of money trying to fight them."

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Now the family claims that their present-day business is being disrupted by the Air Force as well. "They have driven away prospective business partners and told them, 'If you buy the place or try to operate, we are going to condemn it, and you're going lose your money,'" co-owner Danny Sheahan said.

To add insult to injury, the family says that they themselves have been threatened when trying to access their own land. The private road that their grandfather built to access the mining site had a security shack added to it, requiring the family to go through a checkpoint.

"We've been illegally searched. I was threatened to be arrested on a trip when I was going out one time to get on our land, our own privately owned land," Sheahan-Manning said.

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Danny Sheahan said that the family didn’t initially want to go public with their story, but that the Air Force’s behavior forced their hand, according to the Review-Journal. "We want 'em to know what they have done over the last 60 years to our family is not acceptable.”

A different view of things was outlined by the Air Force in statement released last week.

"The Air Force attempted to conduct operations while the owners used the property for decades, much of it amicably," the statement said, adding that the civilian presence in the test site poses safety risks and interrupts operations, resulting in “increased national security costs to the taxpayer."

"We're interrupting their operations? Really?" Joe Sheahan told the Review-Journal in response to the Air Force statement. "We didn't parachute into their backyard. They parachuted into our backyard."