By By GREG LITTLE Editor, Mariposa Gazette
Jerry Cox may be going home soon.
But for how long, whether his ranch will be sold and what will happen in the future remains sketchy, at best.
Cox is the owner of JDC Land Company, a tract of more than 400 acres located on CYA Road north of the airport in Mariposa.
That land, and its contents, were placed into receivership nearly two years ago after the Mariposa County Superior Court found there were more than 100 code violations on the property. Cox’s property was seized at that time and he has not been allowed back since.
Since that time, the issue has been contentious, with Cox claiming the receivership is nothing more than a land grab and the receiver in the case is inflating costs with the end game of selling the property to get back money his company has spent during the receivership proceedings.
The county contends Cox was in violation of building codes, they attempted to work with him for years and he would not cooperate so they had to use the receivership route in order to get him to conform.
The case has had hearing after hearing over the past two years, and there was another one on Monday of this week.
It was during that hearing that Judge Dana Walton said Cox could go back to his property within 30 days — provided he pays a little over $3,000 to the receiver and meets several conditions.
However, what happens next remains anyone’s guess as the judge also denied a motion by Cox to be able to sue receiver Mark Adams of California Receivership Group.
During the hearing, Mariposa County Counsel Steve Dahlem contended Cox should not be allowed back on his property because of a major issue he said remains outstanding. That issue concerns what has been called a “storage room” on the property. Dahlem said the structure is anything but the agriculture storage building it was designated as on the building permit.
In his filing with the court, Dahlem presented photos of the structure, which he said was used by Cox as a vacation rental. That, he said, is one of the main points of the case because Cox was renting out rooms without paying transient occupancy taxes or having the proper permits to do rentals.
Walton asked if the storage building was in the original 101 code violations. Both Dahlem and Adams said it was included — and one of the reasons Cox should not be allowed back on his property.
Adams said the structure “can’t be used for residential” use and requested money to have the electrical and plumbing removed from the building.
Attorney Marc Angelucci, representing Cox, countered the county did include bathrooms in the permit for the building. He called the request “another way for the county to delay” allowing Cox back onto his property.
“He does not use it for residential purposes,” said Angelucci.
But Dahlem, in his argument, said the building “epitomizes what this receivership case is all about. It is obvious Mr. Cox wants to use this as a vacation rental.”
Dahlem said the building “continues to be set up as a residence” even though it is only permitted for agriculture storage.
Dahlem then cited the permit which was issued by the county for the building, saying it was inspected by the county but only for agriculture storage.
“The county contends the changes were made by the property owner after the inspection,” said Dahlem.
Dahlem also said there is “nothing controversial” about the issue and that it is only about the county seeking “compliance with the law” by Cox.
Judge Walton then went through various photographs submitted by the county in its briefs prior to Monday’s hearing. He pointed out various parts inside the building, including a bed, toiletries, a kitchen, dishes, a full bar, fireplace and more.
Cox, who was in the courtroom, told the judge the “county has to face some responsibility here.”
He said the fireplace, bathrooms, wrap-around porch and other aspects of the building were approved by the county.
“It is not just plumbing,” countered Adams. “It is clear this was intended as a residential structure.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Cox.
Angelucci said the issue was “no reason” why it “should prevent him from being on his property. This can be worked out.”
Adams contended Cox should have to pay $8,000 to get the final permits and sign-off by the county.
The court then turned its attention to a motion by Cox for the court to allow him to sue Adams. Under California law, in receivership cases, all requests have to be approved by the court.
“This whole thing is outrageous,” said Angelucci in arguing for the motion.
Adams said under the law, only when there is a discharge hearing can motions like this be heard. A discharge hearing is when the receiver has completed the work and the court considers the next steps in the case.
Angelucci countered that Adams did not fulfill his duties as a receiver because he did not even obtain estimates to fix the property. In fact, it was Cox who found a company to get the estimates and that company was eventually hired by the receiver.
Walton said the “vast majority” of the information from Cox was “adjudicated at the very beginning” of the case when it was ruled he was in violation of the building codes.
“Those have been completed,” said Walton.
He also pointed out the original decision is “before the appellate court. The court won’t go back and re-litigate issues that have been adjudicated.”
Walton denied Cox a chance to file an action against the receiver but added that determination will be “in this court.” That appears to indicate the issue remains on the table with another hearing scheduled for next week and more almost certain in the coming weeks.
Then Walton turned his attention to the request by Cox to return to his property.
“I realize it has been a long time,” said Walton.
The judge then proceeded to tell Cox he could return to his property — with several conditions.
One is to pay $3,360 to the receiver so the issues with the building in question can be handled. He did tell Cox that once the money is received by Adams, the 30-day clock starts whether the work is completed or not.
Here are some other conditions as outlined by the judge:
• Cox cannot remove or make any alterations to the property. Alternations would include the buildings, fencing and other physical structures. He can remove his personal property.
• He cannot interfere with the designer, contractors or real estate broker.
• The county and its inspectors will have full access to the property at all times.
• Cox can only communicate through his attorney or the receiver.
• No commercial enterprises are allowed. The judge did say Cox is allowed the normal business practices like grazing and raising of livestock.
Walton said any violation of the order would result in eviction subject to a court hearing.
“I want Mr. Cox to understand it’s a short rope,” said Walton.
Another issue then was taken up by the judge and that was the real estate listing currently being allowed by the court. The judge previously allowed the receiver to list the property in order to possibly sell it, should the court order that to happen. The judge has stressed in previous hearings the property cannot be sold without an order from the court.
In the court filings, Cox is arguing the receiver is listing the property well below market value. Cox claims the receiver is listing the price too low in an effort to sell the property for just enough to get back the money he claims is owed in the case.
In his filing, Cox showed various other properties in the county which are similar in nature and listed for much higher prices.
The listing for Cox’s property is for $750,000, according to real estate records available on-line. The property is listed by Century 21 Ditton Realty in Oakhurst.
During the hearing, the judge asked the receiver to provide the court, by next Monday, a copy of the listing agreement with disclosures plus the opinions of brokers as well as any sales comparisons which may have been provided, including orally.
From Cox, the judge asked for sales comps plus any appraisals.
Adams told the judge realtors are “sensitive” about “having their names listed in this proceeding.”
Walton said the information from the realtors could be filed under seal and then the names redacted for the hearing.
That hearing was set for 3:30 p.m. Monday in Mariposa County Superior Court. It will be a status update. Walton said he is determined to move the matter along as quickly as possible.
Just before the conclusion of the hearing, Dahlem raised another issue which he said were “threatening emails” received by the county about the Cox case.
Dahlem said those emails were from “Marcello Ramirez,” the same named floated recently that erupted in controversy among the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors.
That controversy surrounded Supervisor Marshall Long, who represents District 3 — the district where Cox’s property is located.
Long responded to an email, apparently presuming it was sent by Cox under a pseudonym.
“Tired of your lies and threats. How’s that homelessness working for your?” wrote Long in an email response.
The response drew the ire of the public, including the county sheriff, and Long eventually apologized for sending the email.
Dahlem told the court emails were being received by the county, including one address that appeared to be directed at the judge. But Dahlem said it was a bad email address and never made it to Walton.
“Folks will do what they are going to do,” said Walton.
He also said that any threats to the court would be investigated by the California Highway Patrol and would be “deemed as a felony.”