Carson City officials will take the next two weeks to try to work out an agreement with Douglas County and the Bureau of Land Management before making a final decision whether to take a public land sale in northern Douglas County to federal court, supervisors decided Thursday.
Facing hefty legal bills, the board met in closed session for more than an hour before voting to defer the court action. Supervisors plan to take up the issue in closed session again July 17.
Carson City's protest against the sale of a 144-acre public parcel just south of its county line was rejected by the U.S. Department of the Interior, giving the BLM the go-ahead to auction the land. Carson officials argued the sale and impending commercial development would severely affect the city financially.
"I think, in general, we're committed to finding a resolution of the issues that we feel locally," said Supervisor Pete Livermore. "It's an opportunity for resolution if we seriously sit down and want to have serious discussion on it."
Livermore said board members don't want to spend staff time and money on legal fees if something can be worked out locally.
The legal costs could range from $100,000 to $300,000 for a court action, paid possibly out of the general fund, said Supervisor Robin Williamson. Janice Schneider of Latham and Watkins in Washington D.C. was hired by the city to file the land protest and provide legal advice.
The BLM plans to hold the public auction Aug. 6 but had held off filing a legal notice until Carson City made a decision on further legal action, said John Singlaub, manager of BLM's Carson City field office.
Singlaub said the BLM will go ahead and file a legal notice for the auction following Thursday's decision.
"I'm glad they're open for discussion," Singlaub said. He said he was hoping for something more definitive but "at least it's a good sign. Hopefully we'll reach some alternative."
The controversial land sale is the first of three pieces that make up more than 300 acres across from the new Wal-Mart on Highway 395 at Topsy Lane. The first piece can be developed into commercial development, while the other two parcels are zoned residential.