Carson's offer to buy Douglas County BLM land denied

The Bureau of Land Management chief in Nevada said Thursday he will not consider the Carson City's manager's request to buy a controversial piece of public land in Douglas County.

The latest move was the city's attempt to have a say in what can be built at the site. In part, Carson officials wanted to ensure that an auto mall will not be built, threatening the main source the city relies on for sales tax revenue.

Carson officials and legal counsel have asked the bureau's state office to make the 146-acre land available to the city for a direct purchase at the minimum price of $6.5 million.

If it had been allowed to buy the property, Carson City would have placed deed restrictions on the land then sell it for development, said Carson City Manager John Berkich.

BLM spokeswoman Jo Simpson said the state director will not consider the option, but Berkich said he is waiting for an official response.

"It would set a poor precedent," said Simpson. "We want to hold an auction for the land to get the most revenue for the American people. We want to get the highest amount possible."

The land is worth at least $6.5 million, the opening bid price set for the auction, Simpson said. The vacant parcel is across from Wal-Mart on Highway 395 between the Highway 50 cutoff and Jacks Valley Road.

Carson City, already hurting from losses of retail outlets to Douglas County, filed a protest with BLM in late November, citing its failure to fully study the economic, fiscal, air quality, traffic, housing, public service, solid waste disposal and other impacts of development.

BLM canceled an auction set for last Tuesday after Carson officials made it clear they would follow through with the protest.

Douglas commissioners vocally expressed their dismay at their neighboring county's actions at a Dec. 5 meeting. The county hoped the auction would proceed and result in more commercial development for the north end of the county.

Douglas officials fear the protest will result in a delay of up to two years.

BLM state director Bob Abbey may be able to rule on the protest matter within the next few weeks, Simpson said. The Carson City field office is analyzing the protest and will forward its findings to Abbey, she said.

If the protest is denied by Abbey, it would then become an issue for the Carson City Board of Supervisors to consider at a public meeting, Mayor Ray Masayko said.

Carson officials were not aware of Berkich's latest request to BLM, but several said he is doing his job and looking out for the city's best interests.

The District Attorney's Office said the land purchase would be unusual and may be illegal. There is no legal way to annex the property if Carson purchased it, said Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Mark Forsberg. The city's boundaries are established by the Legislature.

Berkich hired the Washington, D.C., firm of Latham & Watkins a month ago to represent the city in the land matter -- a move that has Douglas County Commissioner Steve Weissinger expecting two or three more legal actions by Carson to block the sale.

"For (Carson) to interfere in another county's business is just bizarre, to say the least," Weissinger said. "It's not professional, and it's inappropriate."


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