Rumors of auto mall in Douglas County have Carson officials scrambling

Carson City officials say their No. 1 concern about developing a 146-acre lot in Douglas County is the possibility it will become an auto mall.

With the departure of Wal-Mart from Carson, automotive sales have almost single-handedly kept the city's retail sales numbers afloat in the past few months.

Car and gasoline sales make up one-third of all taxable retail sales income in Carson City. For the first nine months of this year, Carson City took in $73.9 million in automotive and gasoline sales, while it has watched general merchandise sales plummet, according to the Nevada Department of Taxation.

Supervisors Pete Livermore and Robin Williamson believe the possibility of building an auto mall at the site was real.

"That's our No. 1 fear," Williamson said. "That would be a tremendous impact to us."

Carson's operating budget, which pays for services like water, sewer, police and fire service, derives 40 percent of its funds from sales-tax revenue.

The city planned for the estimated $1 million a year loss of revenue from Wal-Mart's relocation to Douglas County and other contingencies by saving money from previous budget surpluses, but that is only a one-year fund, Mayor Ray Masayko said.

National automotive companies are territorial when it comes to location. If Ford opened a store in Douglas County, it would not also operate a dealership in Carson, for instance.

Local car dealers would not comment Thursday about whether they have considered moving to Douglas County.

Douglas Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyen said an auto mall would be the last thing for the site.

"An auto mall has never been on the list and is not on it today," he said. "I don't want people to drive into Douglas County and the first thing they see is an auto mall."

If there was a way to deed-restrict the property to exclude an auto mall, Etchegoyhen said he would be in favor of it, but he is not sure that is possible. No current restrictions would prevent a future auto mall.

Etchegoyhen said he met with a couple of Carson supervisors Wednesday to see if they could iron out some issues. He said they were concerned about the auto mall possibility.

"If that's the issue, that's a relatively small bump," he said. "I think we can iron that out." Etchegoyen said he is interested in growing the region, but not poaching on Carson's existing revenue sources.

To him, the most important issue is selling the BLM land then purchasing environmentally sensitive land near the Carson River.


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