The cost of open space

If Carson City truly wants to protect open space, it's going to have to spend money - and lots of it.

The deal being put together with Mike Fagen for more than 500 acres in Kings Canyon is a good example. Of the total, 380 acres is costing $2.8 million. Another $790,000 would be spent to persuade Fagen not to develop 200 acres of pasture.

We support acquisition of open space, and voters have provided sales-tax money to pay for it. The Kings Canyon property is a great example of private property that, if developed, would dramatically change the character of the city's west side.

Let's face it. Not much of Carson City is scenic, even if you have a hankering for sagebrush. Mainly, it's convenient - to the Sierra Nevada, among other things. That access is a big part of what people want to see preserved.

That also makes it expensive. Carson City officials have vowed to seek out only willing sellers for open-space acquisitions, which puts it in the same marketplace as everybody else.

We've seen the other approach, in Reno, where the 1,000-acre Ballardini Ranch is the subject of a legal fight over Washoe County's attempt to use eminent domain to stop development of it.

After the furor over a U.S. Supreme Court decision - in which a Connecticut city is using eminent domain to help a development - the appetite for government-forced land sales is at a particularly low ebb.

Though it would be hard to argue open space isn't a "public use," people are tired of governments flexing their muscles just because they can.

Will it end up costing more for cities such as Carson to buy scenic properties? Yes. Will some properties be developed that many people would prefer to remain open space? Probably so.

It likely also will take some negotiating skill and lots of patience to always buy from willing sellers. But open space is a luxury that taxpayers are willing to afford, and that's the way governments should treat it.


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