To prevent possible development, Carson City officials are trying to scrape up enough cash to purchase Horse Creek Ranch, an untouched piece of land in Kings Canyon.
Horse Creek Ranch is a sprawling 610 acres with a meadow surrounded by high mountains, sitting 2.4 miles from the edge of Kings Canyon Road.
The only inhabitants of the land are cows, owned by a local family, which graze along the 200-acre meadow in the middle of the property.
Owner Michael Fagan wants to sell, and Carson City open-space manager Juan Guzman wants to keep the parcel just the way it is.
"It's incredibly beautiful," Guzman said. "We'll keep it for open space and passive recreation, which means just looking at it."
An appraiser hired by Fagan valued the property at $4.2 million, but Fagan wants $6 million. He said a Chicago investment group is interested in the property.
Fagan said he needs to secure at least $2.5 million by Dec. 31, when he will consider other potential buyers if the city can't produce the payment.
"If we can't perform by the end of the year, I'll have to put it on the market," he said.
The city cannot pay more than the appraised value for the property, and has recently hired its own appraiser.
Carson City finance director Tom Minton said Carson City Open Space has only $2.9 million to dedicate to the purchase. He recommended the city take out a $3.1 million, 10-year loan that will produce funds by Dec. 1.
Fagan said he would prefer to sell 400 acres to the city, and sell the 200-acre meadow to Ray Schulz, who owns the grazing cows and 80 acres of adjacent property.
Schulz and his son Jeff are willing to enter into a conservation easement on the land they purchase, but Guzman said the city prefers to buy the entire 610 acres, instead of taking a gamble with the family's future land- use decisions.
"You may have to do something that would change the nature of the land," Guzman said to Jeff Schulz at Monday's Carson City Open Space public meeting. "We want to buy it on our own."
The Carson City Open Space Advisory Committee voted to secure the $3.1 million loan toward the purchase of the ranch, with chairman Bruce Scott abstaining.
"I've done some work for Fagan," Scott explained.
The committee cannot ask the Board of Supervisors to buy Horse Creek Ranch until the appraiser hired by the city places a value on it. Guzman said the appraiser should produce a report before December.
Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at email@example.com or 881-1217.