Carson City officials will host three meetings next week to explain why selling Carson City Fairground for development would benefit residents.
Commercial development at the fairgrounds is "an opportunity for the community," City Manager John Berkich said Thursday.
"We have a window of time to consider this opportunity," he said. "Major retailers and restaurants are seeking to relocate because of Costco and Wal-Mart. The fairgrounds become the most viable site they see. This is timely, appropriate and prudent."
The city will host 18 hours of meetings Monday through Wednesday with displays detailing everything from the area's history to its economic development potential.
Berkich said city officials want every Carson resident to have a chance to weigh in on the issue, while city officials will probe attendees for information on "what we missed or overlooked in looking at this."
Members of the Concerned Citizens to Save Fuji Park and the Fairgrounds, who are circulating a petition to enact an ordinance to save the area, will be present as well.
"We think this is a great opportunity," said group spokesman John Nowlin. "We welcome the opportunity to discuss this. The park and fairgrounds need to be preserved. I see nothing in their talking points to compel us to think otherwise. They say this needs to be done to get more tax revenue. There's private land available for that. The city shouldn't be in the development business, that should stay in the private sector. Selling public land should be a measure of absolute last resort."
There is a difference between the park and fairgrounds, and city officials maintain the ideal plan is to improve the existing park and Clear Creek while offering the fairgrounds for commercial development.
Recently, the Northern Nevada Development Authority Board of Directors wrote a letter to city supervisors urging the park and fairgrounds "be sold, modified and/or moved to a more appropriate location to improve the economic development opportunities this property has to offer."
"The bottom line: It would have a positive effect on the most people," wrote board president Ed Shaw. "We understand this is a difficult situation. However, the location, the property and the opportunity is now."
Sandwiched between Costco to the north and the future Wal-Mart Supercenter to the south, Berkich contends the 16-acre fairground parcel is key to the city's economic future. National retailers, who Berkich declines to name, are interested in turning the area into an "upscale" shopping area.
Property and sales taxes from such a development are crucial to a city facing a budget deficit in coming years, he said. The deficit is compounded by the estimated $1 million loss of revenue from Wal-Mart's move to Douglas County and the city's reliance on sales taxes, which make up 43 percent of its budget.
Berkich provided noted that "without new revenue, the city could face eliminating 20 jobs or raising the property tax rate by 10 cents (4 percent)."
While there is no alternative site for the fairgrounds, Berkich said city staff will continue to hunt for a new location. Money from the sale of city land to Costco combined with the money from the fairgrounds sale could provide between $6 million and $8 million for improved facilities.
"We believe it's a win for the entire community," Berkich said. "The users can benefit from a new fairgrounds, those who enjoy the park will have a better park and the community will be better off."
IF YOU GO
What: Open house discussion on the Carson City Fairgrounds and Fuji Park
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday; 2-8 p.m. Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Carson High School Senator Square, 1111 N. Saliman Rd.
For information, call 887-2100