City looks again at downtown condemnation powers

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Proposed rules that could pave the way for condemnation of property in downtown Carson City will protect existing business and give affected property owners more of a chance to participate before their property is condemned.

Carson City supervisors, acting as the Redevelopment Authority, in December decided new condemnation powers they were contemplating could too easily strip away private property rights.

The plan to change the redevelopment district's owner-participation rules would have allowed the city to condemn property if a property owner did not submit plans for redevelopment within a 45-day notification period.

The plan also said if the authority disagreed with a property owner's plan, the authority could seek other proposals for the property.

Supervisor Richard Staub argued in December condemnation powers should be considered only after property owners failed to respond to efforts by the authority. The language in December wasn't clear enough to establish the city's intent, he said.

"In the drafts I've seen, there is a world of difference between the original and the one we have now," Staub said Tuesday. "This very specifically provides guidelines to the authority by which the board can operate with some degree of comfort and some level of legality. Statutorily, the authority already has the power to do this.

"However, if it is going to use that, the authority should do it with appropriate guidelines."

Carson City redevelopment officials have fine-tuned the proposal with more specifics. Now the proposal reads that property owners whose property is being eyed for condemnation will be sent criteria 30 days before the authority begins shopping for another proposal.

Mark Wasser, a lawyer working for the city on the issue, said the criteria is an attempt "to inject an element of objectivity" into the process. The authority would weigh proposals on the basis of compatibility within the district, creation of jobs, benefit to the community and the economy among other issues. The criteria basically would lay out what and how the city plans to improve a property and offers its owner a basis from which to respond.

"The city is really concerned that this is a fair process Ñ that it not only be fair but is perceived to be fair," Wasser said.

While much of this was implied in the previous attempt, Staub said the implication "wasn't enough as far as I'm concerned.

"It needs to be written so the public and landowners potentially subjected to these ordinances can understand them," he said.

Carson's Redevelopment Authority and Board of Supervisors will consider the change Thursday. Redevelopment officials say the ordinance is needed because the 1986 redevelopment plan didn't have rules of participation, and without them, downtown condemnation could be easily challenged in court.

The redevelopment authority offers businesses monetary incentives to improve their facilities. The authority offers 20 percent of a project cost up to $100,000 as an incentive to redevelop within the district.

The program has helped spur projects such as the Golden Spike, now the Washington Street Station, and the area where Red's Old 395 Grill sits. But officials argue after years of doling out dollars, some properties downtown, notably the Lucky Spur on the corner of Carson and Proctor streets, are still a blight.


What: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

When: 8:30 a.m., Thursday

Where: the Community Center's Sierra Room, 851 E. Willi


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