Carson area contractors find city easy to work with

Some contractors are wondering this week what happened at the Ormsby House that led the owners to want to demolish the hotel-casino project.

Ormsby House owners said frustration with working with the city's building and planning department caused them to abandon the project last week. While the city is looking to salvage the project, many contractors are saying they've rarely experienced problems working with city planners while renovating buildings.

"This is the easiest jurisdiction in Northern Nevada to work in," said John Anderson of John Anderson Construction. "I've found Carson City to be at least one of the jurisdictions that is willing to come to the table with you on an issue and talk about it."

Anderson said he works on projects in Gardnerville, Lake Tahoe, Washoe County, Reno and Sparks. Seventy percent of the projects Anderson has done in the past seven years in Carson have been commercial renovations, he said.

Working in the historic district is tough, he said, but the Ormsby House would be a standard remodel.

"It needs to be to code from the fire and life safety standpoint, as well as (American Disabilities Act), and if anything, it's got to be done right," Anderson said. "We all know what we're getting into these days and it's about dealing with these issues."

Lucky Spur remodeler Michael Stewart, who is building Stew's Sportatorium with partner Scott Johnson inside the building, said he hasn't encountered any issues with the city. The partners expect to have the project finished in the next three months if all goes well, Stewart said.

"I've never worked with a better group of people than I have with the city," Stewart said. "I didn't have a single hangup, problem, delay, dilemma -- at all."

Carson Development Services Director Andy Burnham said the Ormsby House was the "topic of the day" at a builder's luncheon Wednesday. He received many positive comments about the city from contractors, he said.

Problems with the Ormsby House could be overcome, Burnham said.

"I don't think any of the problems were insurmountable. I think it was just a whole series of things that got under their skin," he said.

Owners Don Lehr and Al Fiegehen decided to stop work on the project Friday and file for a permit to tear it down. They have sunk $8 million into gutting the building and hotel and may spend another $1 million to demolish it.

The city is meeting with Lehr and Fiegehen Friday to try to save the project. The partners, who purchased the building in 1997, were in the midst of renovating the 31-year-old structure and converting it into a boutique-style resort with 127 suites.

Problems with landscaping, water and sewer connections and working with city staff were reasons the owners cited for stopping work. City Manager Linda Ritter said the city is looking to talk about the issues with the owners Friday to see if any agreements can be reached.

"If there are things we shouldn't be doing as a city, we're willing to listen," Burnham said. "We certainly want to have the image of being business-friendly."


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