Feds won't referee between Carson, Douglas

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has decided to look the other way in the controversial sale of 146 acres for development in northern Douglas County, a stance that is both understandable and a bit disingenuous.

The property is in the red-hot zone of commercial growth just across the line from Carson City, where shopping centers are sprouting like cheatgrass.

The unfortunate reality is that Carson City and Douglas County have never been able to put aside their political differences in order to reach some kind of agreement that would benefit both.

As we've said before, the residents of Carson and Douglas don't draw much distinction in where they shop and do business. The two governments have much more in common than in conflict.

Yet the 146-acre parcel has become a battleground in the war for sales-tax revenues, which Carson is losing.

Interior Assistant Secretary Rebecca Watson decided this week that Carson City's protest of the BLM's sale of the land was without merit. The decision makes sense on one level, because there is no development plan for the parcel. How can it respond to something that doesn't yet exist?

But that logic is just a wink and a shrug to what everyone knows will happen when the property goes on the auction block. The federal government, in particular the BLM, is at the center of development prospects all over the state of Nevada. There is no bigger player holding trump cards.

It's a difficult role, and the BLM can't be faulted for Carson and Douglas being unable to work together. Carson City has had at least four years to come up with some kind of strategy, not only on this particular property but to offset the shopping-center sprawl in northern Douglas.

Offering the fairgrounds for development wasn't a sound one. An auto mall remains a viable strategy. Extending redevelopment districts north, south and east from downtown Carson City involves ambitious and long-range thinking, and it will pay dividends someday. Completion of the bypass will change the playing field dramatically.

The one thing that won't help is Carson and Douglas officials feuding their way into the future. As we have seen, the federal government isn't going to play referee.


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