Carson City's land protest thrown out by feds

Carson City's attempt to block the federal government's sale of 146 acres in northern Douglas County was thrown out Monday by the U.S. Department of the Interior, thus ending the city's protest.

The prime piece of real estate on the east side of Highway 395, which has been the center of attention in a tug-of-war between the two counties, will be sold in the next few months, said Jo Simpson, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management.

The only legal option now for Carson is to take the case to federal court, Simpson said.

"It ends the protest action," Simpson said. "We believe that we made the right decision and we're pleased the assistant secretary agreed with us."

Carson City filed the land protest in November, effectively stopping an auction set for December. Carson officials said they feared the land would be developed into an auto mall and devastating the city's already hurting economy. The city listed seven reason why the sale should be blocked until further study.

At the center of the protest, Carson contended the local Bureau staff failed to study the economic impacts the sale would have on the local economy and failed to offer the land to local government entities through a direct sale or sale by modified competitive bidding. The city argued the sale would adversely affect Carson City and is not in the public interest.

Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior issued a dismissal of the protest Monday, refuting each issue.

Watson disputed many of Carson's arguments, saying the impacts to Carson would be the result of the future development of the land, not the sale.

In some cases, the Bureau is not legally allowed to make a plan to mitigate economic impacts the development of the land might have on Carson as no development plan has been adopted for the land, Watson said. She said the proper assessments were completed before the land was put up for sale.

Carson Supervisor Robin Williamson said she was disappointed in the decision and that the economic arguments were substantial.

"I still think we have some valid issues," Williamson said. "My concerns are housing and accommodation of a work force that works in retail."

Williamson said she anticipates supervisors will consult with Latham & Watkins, its legal counsel in Washington D.C., to discuss whether the city will take the case to federal court. She also said she hoped concerns can be talked over before the sale goes forward.

"Perhaps we have some time to discuss it with the local BLM office and with Douglas County," Williamson said.

Douglas County Commissioner Kelly Kite said he hadn't heard of the protest dismissal before Monday night and was reluctant to comment on it.

"I'm really pleased if that's the case, but until we know if there are strings attached I wouldn't know how to comment on it," Kite said.

Carson City sales-tax revenues have fallen steadily since Douglas County began developing shopping centers just across the county line. In addition to stores such as Target and Home Depot, the biggest blow came when Wal-Mart moved from its location on Carson Street into Douglas County.

Another large shopping center is due to open before the end of the year, adding stores such as Best Buy and Border's. Carson City officials fear the 146-acre parcel, directly across Highway 395 from the other shopping centers, will contribute to the drain on city sales-tax revenue while adding to the demand for services.


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