City ponders $6 million land purchase

Carson City officials have recommended spending $6 million to purchase several plots of open land for conservation and recreation, while the Open Space Advisory Committee has its eye on one prized piece of land west of town that would eat up most of the money.

Juan Guzman, Carson City's open space manager, has designated 14 properties he would like to purchase for open space, with Horse Creek Ranch taking top priority.

Horse Creek Ranch - 610 acres in Kings Canyon - is prime property, and the Open Space Advisory Committee wants it.

If the city can provide the $6 million landowner Michael Fagan wants for it, Guzman said he'll do whatever it takes to convince the Carson City Board of Supervisors to buy it up.

"When you see it, you have to think 'wow,' Guzman said. "The scenic value is just incredible. It just makes you fall in love with nature."

The property sits 2.4 miles from the edge of Kings Canyon Road. The only inhabitants of the land are cows owned that graze along the 200-acre meadow in the middle of the property.

If the city buys the land, it would be used for pedestrian and bike trails that would one day connect to Spooner Summit, Guzman said.

As with all open space purchases, no development would be allowed on the property.

"The purchase would definitely impact our ability for other purchases," Guzman said. The other 13 potential purchases will probably be put on hold if the city opts to purchase the entire ranch.

Fagan wants $6 million for the property. He said a Chicago investment group is interested.

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.

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 $2.9 million to dedicate to the purchase. He recommended the city take out a $3.1 million, 10-year bank loan.

The city board approved the loan Thursday and indicated it would prefer to purchase part of the property with a conservation easement, an option Fagan also favors.

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 he prefers to buy the entire 610 acres instead of taking a gamble with the family's future land-use decisions.

"The easement would allow any kind of agricultural pursuit including more barns and structures," Guzman warned. "It is the Open Space Advisory Committee's opinion that it should be a fee purchase."

The funding request will go before the board of supervisors one more time before a resolution is drafted to take out the $3.1 million loan.

The purchase may also be affected by a promise by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to purchase two pieces of open space land from the city, Guzman said.

Those purchases could put $1.6 million back into open space coffers. Guzman said he will know sometime next year whether those transactions will come through.

Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at or 881-1217.


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