City stepping into federal land deal | NevadaAppeal.com

City stepping into federal land deal

Cory McConnell
Appeal Staff Writer

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal This cabin sits on the south east portion of 320 acres Carson City is considering purchasing from Ed Swafford as open space. Swafford has been trying to complete a deal with the U.S. Forest Service for the past three years, but said he's running out of patience.

The first piece of property the Carson City Open Space Advisory Committee talked about when it first formed eight years ago is back in the city’s sights.

The city and the family that owns the 320-acre swath of land in Kings Canyon figured a deal was done to keep the land undeveloped and turn it over to the public in 2002, when the U.S. Forest Service received authorization to buy it with money from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.

Three years later, the Forest Service is still working through other purchases that were in line for acquisition before the west Carson City land, and owner Ed Swafford and his family are running out of patience.

The owners aren’t desperate to sell, Realtor Mary Jo Brummer told the open-space committee Monday, but they are ready to consider other opportunities.

“We’ve had quite a number of people interested in purchasing this property,” she said.

Carson City Open Space Manager Juan Guzman proposed to the committee that the city try and buy the land now then let the federal government buy it back whenever it can.

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“Then we’ll have all the time in the world to wait for the Forest Service,” he said.

The idea is not new.

In 2001, Carson City bought 62 acres near the Silver Saddle Ranch for $1 million on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which was working too slowly for the property owner. BLM finally bought it from the city earlier this year, for $2.5 million.

However, one success story involving BLM wasn’t enough to assuage the concerns of committee members leery of banking on an investment from the Forest Service.

“I have great concern about the ability of the Forest Service to perform,” said committee chairman Steve Hartman. “If they handle this like they do their timber-cutting contracts, it’ll never get done.”

Forest Service officials could not be reached late Monday to respond.

The property, however, is high on the city’s list of land to keep undeveloped, whether the Forest Service buys it or not, Guzman said.

It’s pristine and surrounded almost completely by city and federal public lands. It is also prized for the view it provides Carson City residents.

If the city intends to keep the property for itself, however, state grants could likely cover what would be a multimillion purchase price. But if the city is to sell it back to the federal government, it would have to foot the whole bill.

The committee unanimously agreed that open-space officials should start negotiating with Swafford, and answer later whether to seek state grants or leave the door open for a future Forest Service deal.

The committee also directed Guzman, to the applause of about a dozen neighbors who attended the meeting, to start negotiating with Patricia Potter for about 20 acres of hillside directly fronting C Hill.

The land, though private, is a popular spot with hikers and bikers who think it’s public open space. Potter and others who live on the other side of the hill encouraged the city to keep it that way by buying it before developers offered too much to turn down.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at cmcconnell@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.