Fairgrounds sale won't help Carson's future

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We wish a "yes" or "no" vote on Carson City's fairgrounds dilemma would bring a satisfactory resolution to the issue, but unfortunately neither side has all the answers.

Voters are being asked to choose between black and white, when there are so many shades of gray in the argument.

From City Hall's perspective, the fairgrounds is a prime piece of commercial real estate that will help bolster sales-tax revenues if properly developed, while providing some capital for a better fairgrounds somewhere else.

Flaws in the argument, however, are many. There is no viable development plan, so voters are being asked to go on faith. The Flint Drive site proposed for a new fairgrounds is barely acceptable, and proceeds from a property sale won't build the fairgrounds Carson City wants.

From fairgrounds' supporters point of view, protection and improvement of the site along Clear Creek fulfills two promises -- the past and the future. The fairgrounds has languished, through no fault of the groups who depend on it, while the creekside setting provides a key enclave of open space amid what promises to be a heavily developed corridor.

But protecting the fairgrounds property does nothing to generate needed funds to improve it -- or plan for what must, eventually, be a much larger facility. Carson City deserves better. It also ties the hands of city supervisors who may someday be able to present residents with desirable plans for development of both a retail shopping center and new fairgrounds.

Clouding the whole argument over the past two years has been the backwards nature of the process. Instead of coming up with proposals for solving these issues and building support, City Hall in effect put up a For Sale sign on the property first and worried about the details later. That, quite understandably, raised the ire of residents who demanded they be allowed to express themselves at the polls.

The result is an "advisory" question on the Nov. 5 ballot. Although the supervisors have agreed to abide by it, they are not legally bound forever. And that, to us, makes the difference.

Residents should vote "no" on Carson City Question 1 to show they don't like the idea of trading public recreational land for commercial development, and to indicate their frustration with the "It's a done deal" attitude that led to the standoff.

But times change. Circumstances may someday convince residents the fairgrounds property should be sold (or leased long-term), especially if they are shown development and funding plans they can embrace.

Whether Question 1 succeeds or fails, the burden of proof is always on City Hall.


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