Carson City Chamber withholds endorsement of Nugget project
The Carson City Chamber of Commerce went on record Thursday stating its reluctance to support the city’s proposed downtown redevelopment project.
The chamber “cannot fully endorse it” until more details are transparent, chamber board president Jim Smolenski read from a prepared statement, which had been previously e-mailed to the board of supervisors.
He said the board also was “concerned about encumbering future generations.”
Smolenski said that while 80 percent of the chamber board believed the project was an “absolutely wonderful idea,” there were questions about the cost to the city as well as how fast the proposal was moving.
“Why is there a need to be going so fast? It’s like you’re putting the cart before the horse,” he said.
Supervisor Robin Williamson, who also sits as chairwoman of the redevelopment authority, was quick to respond.
“I have to say that I am very disappointed that the chamber is uncomfortable with the pace of change, and I think that 300-plus businesses and thousands of residents likely will share my disappointment,” Williamson said.
“We can’t just hunker down and hope for the best. We need (economic) reform and we need to work together. Doing nothing is not an option. We need to create jobs and build the heart of the city. Right now we have a window of opportunity with low building costs and low interest rates,” she said.
But Smolenski said that at this point, there were too many questions that have been left unanswered.
Supervisor Shelly Aldean agreed with Williamson.
“I have lots of questions too, but this has sufficient merit for us to move forward,” Aldean said.
She said that communication is a “two-way conduit” and she encouraged the chamber to bring its questions to the board in the future to hopefully “improve your comfort level.”
Supervisor Pete Livermore said controversy makes for good democracy.
“The chamber has always been a partner with the city,” but they had a problem with the way the project was unveiled, Livermore said.
Molly Walt was surprised at the chamber’s timing.
“My question is, why now? The same questions the chamber has are the ones the board has. I was offended by this e-mail. Staff is very involved in this process,” Walt said. “Please give us a chance before you take such a stand on behalf of the community.”
Smolenski said his board was asked to make a statement.
Mayor Bob Crowell addressed the question of transparency.
“The Office of Business Development could have gotten with the Nugget and brought the whole thing to the board as a done deal, but this (discussion) process is the transparency,” he said.
“It also disturbs me that you say this will encumber future generations. We need to do something to keep our kids here. This is an opportunity to create wealth and to create jobs. I look at this as building a future so my kids don’t have to go to LA or Reno or Washington, D.C., or San Francisco,” Crowell said. “Transparency is happening right now.”
Not every member of the chamber board agreed with Smolenski.
Kristy Servati, marketing director for the Horseshoe Club, said after the meeting that she favors the proposal.
“My personal opinion is that this would be a good thing for Carson City. I think there are enough safeguards and we have enough intelligent people working on this to bring it to fruition,” Servati said.
“My only concerns are the IMAX theater because we already have a great theater complex, and I think we need more visitor and convention space,” she said, “but I believe Carson City should support this.”
Chamber board member and Nevada Appeal publisher Niki Gladys echoed Williamson and Aldean’s statements, saying, “We can’t just sit back and watch our city continue to struggle without doing something to turn it around. The proposed library and business center have tremendous potential to make a huge positive impact on downtown.”
“The project team has been very open in communicating the process,” Gladys said. “To come out against it this early in the process is, I believe, shortsighted.”
In other Nugget project matters, the board of supervisors:
• Approved an advisory committee to review and make recommendations about the development of the Carson Nugget property. Proposed members would be Lenny Chappell, Downtown Business Association; Brad Bonkowski, commercial real estate; Scott Dockery, chamber of commerce; Bruce Kittess, resident; Richard Stokes, school district; Guy Rocha, historian; and Dwight Millard, convention and visitors bureau.
Other members include Phyllis Patton, library board; Jim Lawrence, state lands; Marilyn Lewis, insurance; Court Cardinal, Casino Fandango; Shelly Aldean, board of supervisors, Robin Williamson, supervisor and redevelopment authority chairwoman; and Carol Lucey, Western Nevada College (to be confirmed).
• Agreed to have the redevelopment authority chairwoman sign a letters of intent between Eagle World Media for development of a digital lab and the Center for Unique Enterprises for development of a business and technology incubator, and the city, the Nugget, and the Hop and Mae Adams Trust and Foundation.