Richards tees up Empire Ranch shot

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After putting himself in a position to pick up Empire Ranch Golf Course, Silver Oak Golf Course owner Garth Richards is keeping his plans close to the vest.

Richards, longtime Carson City businessman, said Monday prospects for such additional ownership remain three to four months away and he isn’t ready to divulge plans prematurely.

Nor would he say much about previous ideas he had floated on creating a western-oriented tourist attraction or whether he would pare the number of golfing holes in the city should he control the 220-acre, 27-hole Empire Ranch golf complex on Fair Way Drive south of Highway 50. It is several blocks south of the municipal Eagle Valley golfing complex as well. Getting Empire Ranch outright must await a foreclosure procedure.

“In order to protect my investment,” said Richards, “I have purchased the delinquent first deed of trust held by Hank and Susan Thomas,” he said.

Unconfirmed reports put the figure for that at about $800,000. In addition, records from the Carson City assessor’s office indicate almost $200,000 in unpaid property taxes, including water bills, were paid by Richards as the new holder of the deed of trust.

The move was done in the name of GSR Investments LLC, an entity of Garth and Joanie Richards. Richards and others separately have the 18-hole golf firm known as Silver Oak Golf Course & Executive Conference Center, which is in north Carson City along College Parkway.

Empire Ranch Golf Course LLC is in the name of the golf unit held by Dwight, Sandra and Randy Millard, the latter a nephew of Dwight and Sandra. She said Monday they had received no formal notification of Richards’ move yet, but the presumption is it was due to water contracts with city government. The city provides wastewater treatment effluent to state Prison Farms and golf courses.

The pact, she said, involves 1,385 acre feet of water. The order of water delivery in water-short years is first to the state farms, then Empire Ranch followed by the other golf facilities.

Richards declined to talk much for the record on that subject, though shortage of effluent in recent years has been a bone of contention. Questions about his intentions for Empire Ranch also were turned away for now.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with it,” he said. “I don’t own it yet.”

In the past, Richards talked about hard times over dwindling rounds of golf across the nation and in Northern Nevada.

“This is occurring nationwide,” Richards said in April, 2013.

In the same interview, he talked of a mustang ranch and perhaps a western-theme ranch to be paired with the Carson City-Virginia City revival of the V&T Railway to put the area on the map as a tourist attraction. He cited historic reality and televised interpretations of such 19th century lore.

“Let’s reincarnate the Ponderosa Ranch,” he said then. The TV version of the real Ponderosa Ranch was recapitulated imaginatively years ago in the popular television series “Bonanza.”

During the period since those remarks, city government has re-negotiated lease arrangements with the Eagle Valley course operators and Empire Ranch moved past a bankruptcy scare that put nearby residents on edge about their residential property values should status change fro the 27 hole complex. At one point, city officials pondered what to do so they could ensure land for effluent water.

Currently the water is in short supply, but wetter years and Carson City growth concern officials that the need could revive for land to dispose of the effluent. Federal requirements keep it from going into the Carson River.

Supervisor Brad Bonkowski said he has heard from some of the Empire Ranch residents about to the Richards maneuver.

“I’ve spoken to some of the homeowners out there,” he said. “They see it as a positive step.”

Empire Ranch remains open for golf, according to Sandra Millard, and she said city effluent water helps keep the complex green as warm months advance. “It is looking marvelous,” she said.


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