Fuji Park battle: A war of words | NevadaAppeal.com

Fuji Park battle: A war of words

Amanda Hammon, Appeal Staff Writer

Militant? Dump?

Proponents on either side of Carson City Question No. 1’s ballot language argue the wording and ideas in the language tries to sensationalize the issue of selling the fairgrounds — and draw voters’ attention from real issues at hand.

Two committees of three members each were appointed by the Board of Supervisors to draft language for the Carson City Question 1, an advisory question on the potential sale of the city’s fairgrounds. Carson City supervisors promised to abide by the outcome of the vote.

From the beginning, members of the committee in favor of a no vote — three members of the Concerned Citizens to Save Fuji Park and the Fairgrounds –argued the description of the group opposed to the sale of the fairgrounds as “militant” was insulting.

Found in the rebuttal to their argument, the group in favor of a yes vote wrote that the Concerned Citizens, who protested the city’s decision to market the fairgrounds for development and collected 3,400 signatures for an initiative petition to preserve the park and fairgrounds, were a “small, militant special interest group.”

Although Jon Nowlin, Jeanne Yaple and Mike Hoffman appealed to Carson Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover and District Attorney Noel Waters to have the language removed, “militant” will appear on the ballot because Waters argued the group never provided any information that “the Concerned Citizens is not a small group or that it is not ‘vigorous in support or promotion of a cause,’ as the dictionary defines militant.”

“We don’t consider ourselves a special interest group,” Hoffman said. “When did the voters of this community become a special interest group?”

Wayne Pedlar, chairman of the committee in favor of a yes vote and a spokesman for the Burke Consortium, a political action committee supporting the sale of the fairgrounds, also has a problem with the use of a word in the ballot question.

The committee for a no vote wrote that the fairgrounds would be located “on barren land next to the city dump.” Pedlar argues a “dump” connotes an unregulated place where people just throw trash, whereas the fairgrounds would actually be potentially located next to a “landfill,” which is highly regulated and orderly.

Aside from picking over words, members of the Concerned Citizen group argue it is mere speculation for the yes vote committee’s to say selling the fairgrounds would result in “sales and property tax revenue, help keep property taxes low, create job opportunities and maintain essential services without the need to impose additional taxes or fees.”

“There is no cost benefit statement to support that, nothing that will save them money,” Nowlin said.

The yes committee argued the fairgrounds is “obsolete, aging and seldom used,” a statement with which park users and city parks staff disagrees.

“The way I look at it, it’s an opinion of the people who wrote those questions,” said Carson Parks and Recreation Director Steve Kastens. “Aging, I’m not going to argue. It does need some work. But seldom used — compared to what? The sports complexes? Carriage Square Park? It’s not fair to compare it to usage levels to sport complexes. If you look at the calendar, we have events almost every weekend from June to September.”

Pedlar argues the no vote committee makes claims they can’t support, as well, such as a no vote “reaffirms the 1996 Quality of Life Initiative” where the voters “intent was to expand our recreational properties, not to sell them.”

Pedlar said the Quality of Life Initiative — which levied a 1/4-cent sales tax earmarked 40 percent to support the purchase of open space, 40 percent for park improvements and 20 percent for parks maintenance — never said the city couldn’t sell recreational facilities or “sell something to buy something else.”

Members of the Concerned Citizens group vehemently disagree with the yes vote committee’s claims that selling the fairgrounds will allow the city to “be able to preserve the threatened and environmentally sensitive Clear Creek corridor and help create an aesthetically pleasing southern entrance to our city.”

“How do you preserve a riparian area in a stream environment by building a shopping center on top of it?” Nowlin asked.

“And driving down Highway 50 and seeing more shopping center roofs like Wal-Mart and Costco is aesthetic? No, a little green belt is aesthetic,” added Concerned Citizen Susan Hoffman.

Both sides argue the financial numbers and assumptions the other side uses to promote their point have no basis in reality and are overinflated.

Pedlar said the Concerned Citizens can’t argue the city’s “economic arguments for selling the fairgrounds are based on inflated projections” because they are just that, projections.

“Either side is going to be making an assumption,” he said.

But he added he thinks the fairgrounds is worth more now because of its location between Costco and Wal-Mart.

On the same issue, the Concerned Citizens argue their opposition claims selling the fairgrounds will net the city $5 million to relocate and “upgrade the current fairgrounds with no increase in taxes or fees.”

The city estimates a new fairgrounds to cost between $5 million and $7 million, and their estimates show they expect $3.8 million and $4.8 million for the roughly 14 acres of fairgrounds property.

“They won’t generate enough,” Nowlin said.

Also, Nowlin said the yes vote committee’s reference to property tax increases is misleading. The committee intimated without selling the fairgrounds, the city would have to raise property taxes which “hit hardest those least able to pay: senior citizens, retirees young families and others on fixed incomes.”

“What does this have to do with the fairgrounds?” Nowlin asked. “(The city) does rely on property taxes, and they’ve gone up every year. They wasted time talking about this issue. The issue is, should this property be sold?”

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Advisory question that will appear on the November ballot:

“While retaining and improving the area known as Fuji Park, should Carson City make available for commercial development city property known as the Carson City Fairgrounds?”