City to buy prime open-space area
Carson City taxpayers will own a picturesque piece of wildland in the Carson Range by the end of the year, but city officials still must decide whether the public can play on it, or simply admire it from afar.
The Carson City Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Thursday to purchase 379.5 acres of Horse Creek Ranch, serene mountainous land just west of Kings Canyon Road stretching south to Highway 50, for open space.
Funds generated by the Quality of Life Initiative, a 1996 city ballot question that raised sales tax by one-fourth of a percent, will be used for the $2.85 million purchase.
City officials have yet to determine what uses are appropriate for the land – active use passive use, or a balance of the two.
Carson City Open Space Committee Chairman Steve Hartman said the Quality of Life Initiative “creates a very fuzzy line” between active and passive recreation. Active use usually permits hiking and hunting, while passive use is strictly viewing the land.
A combination of active and passive is most likely, said Hartman.
For several months, Carson City Open Space Manager Juan Guzman has been pushing for the acquisition, putting it highest on his prioritized list of open-space purchases.
Owner Michael Fagan worked closely with the Open Space Advisory Committee to draft a plan agreeable to the city, but to retain some control over a 200-acre meadow at the base of the property. He wants to one day build a retreat center in the meadow portion, with a lodge and four cabins.
Thursday’s purchase does not include the 200-acre meadow.
“I’m relieved,” Fagan said after the purchase agreement, shaking hands with Guzman and property owner Jeff Schulz whose land adjoins the ranch.
Fagan has agreed to enter into a conservation easement on the meadow sometime next year, where Schulz currently grazes cows.
Fagan said he will continue to allow Schulz to graze cattle in the meadow.
On average, Guzman said, a conservation easement costs 50 percent of the land’s appraised value. The cost also depends what is done with the land.
“The more (Fagan) wants for the meadow, the less he can do with it,” Guzman said.
Guzman said if Fagan decides to eventually put a retreat center on the meadow, the easement would cost the city less than 50 percent of the appraised value.
Ward 2 Supervisor Shelly Aldean cast the board’s single dissenting vote.
She said she was uneasy entering into a partial land deal that excluded purchase of the meadow, which she called the “jewel” of the property.
“All we have is hillsides,” she said. “Will older people be able to recreate in that area? Probably not.”
She was also concerned that Highway 50 access to the land – a project estimated at more than $300,000 – and maintenance of the land will be too costly for the city.
“What are we opening ourselves up for?” Aldean asked. “We have to ensure we’re good stewards of the land. We don’t want to manage through benign neglect.”
Guzman said an annual $100,000 in Quality of Life funds earmarked for maintenance would ensure adequate care of the land.
Carson City Mayor Ray Masayko said he agreed with Aldean, but since he is the lame duck – he lost his re-election bid Nov. 2- he would vote with the majority on all issues before the board.
Guzman said the city will close escrow within 35 days, and the advisor committee will develop a land management plan for the purchased area within six months.
Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.