Carson City will file a federal lawsuit today against the U.S. Department of the Interior in a final attempt to stop the sale of 144 acres for commercial development in northern Douglas County.
Douglas officials were outraged by the latest move in a contentious competition between the two counties for retail development and sales-tax dollars.
"In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, 'The war is forced upon us,'" said Carson City Supervisor Richard Staub. "I believe it is being forced upon us."
With the paperwork already prepared by Washington, D.C., law firm Latham & Watkins, supervisors voted unanimously Thursday to file the lawsuit, saying they believe they have a strong enough case to ask federal courts to issue an injunction to stop a planned Aug. 6 auction.
The auction by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management originally was set for Dec. 10, 2002, but was stopped when Carson City protested based on environmental and economic impacts. The protest was dismissed last month.
Douglas County commissioners, meeting in Stateline, were visibly angry when told of Carson's plans to go to federal court.
"I'm appalled at the chilling effect on the relationship between Douglas and Carson City," Douglas Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen said. "I publicly resign my position on the Carson Water Subconservancy Board. It's time for hardball.
"I've had enough. I think its time we go to court and let the cards fall where they may. I can't imagine any reason to return Carson City calls on this or any other issue for at least five years. I don't see any reason."
Commissioner Bernie Curtis said the rift between Carson and Douglas will be permanent.
"Our relationship with Carson is forever damaged -- while I'm alive," he said.
John Singlaub, manager of the BLM's Carson City office, said the lawsuit will be the first of its kind here.
"I think it's regrettable," said Singlaub."I don't know specifically what they're going to be challenging. We'll see what goes from here."
Supervisors had hoped to reach an agreement with Douglas County on several issues surrounding the sale and any future development of open land in northern Douglas County. Carson is concerned with the substantial loss of sales tax revenue and economic impacts as retail stores continue to close shop and move across the county line.
Douglas County rejected the proposed agreement last week, pulling it from the Thursday meeting agenda before it could be discussed. County Manager Dan Holler said commissioners did not agree with terms in the agreement regarding mitigation and review of development projects.
Carson officials went ahead and approved the agreement at its meeting Thursday.
In a surprise twist, Holler called during the Carson supervisor meeting by cell phone just as they were preparing to vote on the lawsuit. Holler said Douglas commissioners may be ready to discuss the agreement.
But the offer failed to sway Carson officials.
"We have been led down the primrose path before," said Mayor Ray Masayko. "If we don't file today, the door closes. Thanks for the comment, but it isn't going to persuade me."
The lawsuit will ask the federal district court for a temporary restraining order on the sale of the land. However, Masayko said Carson could dismiss the legal action if an agreement can be reached with Douglas.
Carson's legal action is expected to cost the city as much as $300,000 if it goes to court. The city expects to pay at least $100,000 to file the suit, paid likely out of the city's general fund budget.
"I certainly don't do this lightly considering the significant fiscal impact," said Supervisor Robin Williamson. But, she said, the city estimates a $3.8 million sales tax loss if the BLM auction is allowed to proceed. Supervisors are concerned the development could lure existing Carson auto dealers to relocate to the site.
"Hopefully, this will be something to get us to the table," she said.
-- Gregory Crofton of the Tahoe Daily Tribune contributed to this story.