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South Carson redevelopment zone considered

Jill Lufrano

City redevelopment leaders are looking to turn South Carson Street into a redevelopment zone in the next few months to breathe life into the area and prepare for the departure of auto dealers along the street.

Supervisors, acting as the city’s Redevelopment Authority, are expected to decide Thursday whether to approve a preliminary redevelopment plan. If approved, the city would open up public discussion about the plan as it makes its way back to the Planning Commission and an eventual final approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Turning South Carson into a redevelopment area would give the city’s redevelopment officials the power to collect property taxes from the area to beautify it and stimulate business.

A work group, made up of city, business and community members, drafted the preliminary plan over two years and has sought comment from businesses and the public.

The plan carefully tip-toes through use of eminent domain by restricting its use – a hot button for many businesses, officials said Monday. Eminent domain used in redevelopment would give the city the right to take private property for public use by paying its owner fair-market value.

The preliminary plan gives the Redevelopment Authority the power to use eminent domain only to enhance or retain auto sales.

“Additional limits were imposed on right-of-eminent domain,” said Supervisor Shelly Aldean, who participated in work-group decisions. “It’s far more limited than the powers (granted to the city’s authority in the) downtown redevelopment area.”

Aldean said she is hoping to see final approval of the redevelopment plan by May or June.

“I’m hoping we can fast track this, to the extent we can,” Aldean said. “It’s been in process for two years. It’s been a very long and arduous process.”

The plan’s ultimate goal is to designate South and North Carson streets and the commercial corridor along Highway 50 as redevelopment areas.

South Carson was targeted as the first priority after major retail growth began across the border in Douglas County and the possible loss of auto retailers.

“In driving up and down that section, you find there’s a lot of room for development improvement,” said work-group chairman Dave Ruf, owner of Greenhouse Garden Center.

Auto dealerships cover much of the South Carson Street commercial corridor. If dealers relocate to an auto mall or auto row in the city as anticipated by city leaders, it would leave wide-open land available near the future freeway junction.

“We wanted to be able to be forward thinking, showing Carson City had foresight rather than hindsight,” Ruf said.

Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce executive Larry Osborne said businesses support the idea to create a redevelopment district as a way to retain and expand auto sales. But the chamber asked supervisors to delay any final decisions on the plan until after the chamber’s Board of Directors meets this month.

The first plan to convert all three commercial areas into redevelopment zones didn’t appeal to business leaders.

“We did not support broad-base implementing of redevelopment, including eminent domain throughout the majority of the city,” Osborne said. “We all agreed the creation of an auto mall or auto row and something to maintain or keep it is of critical importance to the community. If this is successful, we would eventually consider implementing redevelopment for other projects.”

Redevelopment areas exist for a limited period, most often 20 to 30 years, and are funded through a program that caps property taxes at a designated level. Taxes collected up to that level are distributed to the city’s general fund and school districts. Any growth in taxes realized beyond the set level is collected by the Redevelopment Authority to spend for improving the designated area, like buying property or installing landscaping and cleaning up the area.

An agreement is in the works with the school district that would ensure it would not lose funding as a result of redevelopment.

Contact Jill Lufrano at jlufrano@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.