Developers call it build-out - when the supply of undeveloped property on the market in a community is used up - and Carson City appears to be nearing that state.
Records maintained by the Community Development Department show only about 2,500 homes could be built in Carson, while existing commercial operations have been removed to make room for newer retail businesses.
A number of indicators show Carson City is approaching the "no vacancy" point as undeveloped property gets scarcer, affecting real estate prices, business decisions and home purchases.
"We know people are moving here and buying homes, but the school enrollment has stopped increasing - why?" Carson City Assessor Kit Weaver asked Wednesday. "The price of homes could be a reason. One developer said he can build the same homes for $20,000 less in Lyon County. The young people who will be raising kids but can't afford to buy in town are moving out there."
One-acre "horse lots" in south Carson City that used to sit on the market for $20,000 are commanding $40,000-50,000 now, Weaver said.
Of the 2,500 buildable lots listed by the city, about 940 are part of the Silver Oak project north of Winnie Lane and east of Carson Street. That project wraps around a golf course and aims towards the higher end of the housing market. Another 340 of the buildable lots are in the Lakeview Subdivision, a pricey area between the Silver Oak project and the Washoe County line.
The planned Carson City bypass is cutting a large swath through Carson City's east side, affecting both potential commercial and residential property:
- Many homes in the areas of Arrowhead Drive, Hot Springs Road and South Edmonds Street have been purchased or condemned and other vacant lots along the route never became homes. Over 90 percent of the property needed for the north half of the bypass has been acquired, according to Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Magruder, while over 70 percent of of the targeted parcels for the south have have been acquired.
- The Carson Royale Mobile Home Park off Lompa Lane was also taken for the project, though it is still in operation pending construction. Relocation of 23 mobile homes from another park that made way for Rite Aid in the past year has left few vacant lots for mobile homes within Carson City, so relocating Carson Royale tenants will present a challenge.
- A shopping center at Highway 50 East and Lompa Lane will be swallowed by an interchange for the bypass, so businesses there are relocating, affecting demand for commercial property.
- Potential commercial property at the south end of the bypass, at the Spooner turnoff, has set idle since the 1986 announcement of the project. Owner John Serpa battled the Nevada Department of Transportation in court last month over how much he should receive for the condemned parcels and a jury awarded him more than three times what the state was offering.
Some of the land that appears vacant is actually set aside as open space, for wetlands preservation or for parks. Along the east side of the bypass route between College Parkway and Nye Lane. is a wetlands that is now owned by the Nature Conservancy. Nearby is property provided to the city by Landmark Homes to fulfill its commitment as a residential developer to provide open space.
On the commercial property side, community development director Walt Sullivan said Carson's population of over 45,000 people has drawn the attention of national companies. So has Carson's trade area that includes 200,000 potential customers stretching from Bridgeport through Douglas County and up to Tahoe, he said.
When the national companies come looking for land, they want 15 to 25 acres, Sullivan said. Few properties that large are still available here. He said the open area on Carson Street south of KMart already is slated for development.
So redevelopment or reuse of commercial properties is becoming common. Two national chains - Rite Aid and Walgreen - moved less profitable businesses to make room for their new Carson City drug stores.