Leaders endorse possible open space acquisition

Douglas County leaders have given their support to a developer's idea to sell 900 acres in Clear Creek canyon to the U. S. Forest Service for open space.

The support could help in developer Jeff Dingman's effort to sell the 900-acre parcel adjacent to his planned upscale golf course and housing development.

The property, which is zoned private open space, could be the site for one house. It is being reviewed for acquisition, Forest Service Supervisor Gary Schiff confirmed.

County Manager Dan Holler said an acquisition would have "a substantial benefit" to the county and residents allowing for retention of open space and public access.

Dingman's Southwest Pointe Partners could stand to make money from the potential sale because of the one-home building right already on the property.

The Forest Service would likely have to pay for the property and the building right. A price has not been disclosed.

Douglas commissioners said they liked the plan and hope it will bring closure to the often-contentious history of the proposed development.

"If we don't encourage the Forest Service to buy this, it will go to private property, one house on 900 acres," Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen said.

Dingman at one time had offered Douglas County the option of acquiring 1,300 acres in the same area as open space. Commissioners rejected the plan, in part saying they didn't want to be responsible for it.

While in support of the Forest Service efforts, open space advocate Mary Bennington of the Nature Conservancy asked the county to revisit the way it has allowed Dingman to build 91 homes on the neighboring property.

"There needs to be a countywide process that clearly states what parcels still have property rights," Bennington said. "There is a history of developers coming forward and getting their clustering. I would like to see the county track this."

Etchegoyhen said in hindsight the best way to acquire open space is to take it as it becomes available.

"If you can get 900 acres, all things being equal, at least it's a beginning," he said, adding the entire 1600-acre Schneider Ranch had been given protection priority through Southern Nevada Lands Act money.

Commissioner Bernie Curtis said he wants to public access to the property under the Forest Service and it should be written into the record for the endorsement.

"For the county to work on this, we'll have to demand public access," Curtis said.

Public ownership will allow a cooperative agreement between the Forest Service, the homeowners' association, the Carson Water Subconservancy District and Douglas County to address environmental concerns along Clear Creek, Holler said.

"It's doubtful that any improvements would be completed if the property is retained in private ownership," Holler said. "Public ownership may also assist in managing the area for any fire threats as well as watershed management."


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