AZ rancher only paid $600 after feds seize prime land
U.S. Customs and Border Protection began leasing Tony Sedgwick's land in 1993. (Source: CBS 5 News)
The land provides a birds-eye view of the border fence between Mexico and Arizona. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Sedgwick is now worried the government will take more of the land his family has owned for more than three decades. (Source: CBS 5 News)
NOGALES, AZ (CBS5) -
For Tony Sedgwick life doesn't get much better than it is now.
"It's magnificent country. It's beautiful. It's green. It's full of wildlife," Sedgwick said.
Ranching runs in his blood. His family has raised cattle in Santa Cruz County for more than a century.
His parents bought Carmencita Ranch three decades ago. From atop the 700-acre spread can be seen the city of Nogales and the Patagonia Mountains.
There's also a bird's-eye view of the border fence with Mexico about a mile below, something that drew the interest of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 1993.
Back then Sedgwick agreed to lease a 10-foot-by-10-foot space on Hines' Ridge to the agency for $350 a year to park a mobile surveillance tower on his property.
That later increased to $500. Then in 2003 the payments stopped, but the truck never left.
In 2009 the agency was back with another offer for triple the money. Not long after that deal fell through the Department of Homeland Security decided it wanted to buy the quarter-acre piece of prime real estate.
"The fact that they want to take this land for $600 is outrageous. So I said we'd be glad to lease. The response to that was a service of a lawsuit in federal court where they took the property," Sedgwick said.
DHS also offered to pay $5,700 for rights to the 2.5-acre road leading to the land.
Sedgwick looked into suing DHS and found out it would cost a minimum of $40,000.
"As an American, I'm not accustomed to having my hands tied and having no chance to defend myself. I understand the need of a country to protect itself but I think that the need has to be balanced by the rights of individuals with the freedom and liberty we are guaranteed," Sedgwick said.
Thursday morning Sedgwick received a registered letter informing him that the government will likely want more of his land. There was no mention of a specific offer.
"They don't have to take the whole property. They can take a little piece here and a little piece on the next hill and a little piece on the hill after that. I would be left with the stuff in between," said Sedgwick.
Land that Sedgwick had hoped to one day sell might not be worth near what it was.
"It's an enormous tower. There will be a chain link fence around it. There will be razor wire top. There will be lights that will be on all night long. I'm not an expert. But I certainly wouldn't want to buy my dream home in the shadow of a military installation."
CBS 5 News reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment. So far the agency has made no comment.
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