BLM land sale gets green light
December 9, 2003
Douglas County Commissioners are looking forward to proceeding with the development of 144 commercially-zoned acres in north county after Carson City dropped a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management.
Carson City entered into an agreement last week with two Carson auto dealers releasing the sale of the parcel after nearly a year of legal battles.
The city agreed to drop the suit, allowing dealers Michael Hohl and Dink Cryer to finalize the sale of the land with BLM for $14.6 million. Part of the agreement stipulates that the dealers won’t allow auto sales on the land for two years and that they will negotiate with the city to develop an auto mall within city limits.
“Obviously, we are pleased to see that the suit has been dropped,” Commissioner Tim Smith said. “It’s going to be nice to proceed forward with some sort of specific plan for the property.”
“The parcel will be sold on schedule,” Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a very long time, and it’s unfortunate that any of us had to go through this.”
Hohl did not return a phone call by press time.
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The county split a $100,000 bill with the bureau to evaluate and plan out usage for 440 acres of BLM land in northern Douglas County . The understanding since the process started in 1999 has been that a portion of the proceeds generated from the sale would be earmarked for Douglas County.
In turn, that portion would be used to buy up conservation easements in the Carson Valley, thus helping to protect open space.
Carson City Supervisors got involved in January of 2003 when newly appointed supervisor Shelly Aldean accused Douglas County of manipulating an economic impact study for the land, according to Commissioner Steve Weissinger.
Carson filed a federal lawsuit in July, alleging that BLM did not follow federal land management rules before offering the land up for sale.
“This kind of tied everyone’s hands,” Smith said. “I’m glad for Carson City that they have worked something out with their auto dealers.”
“It is certainly disturbing that they had to have the auto dealers expend $14..6 million to do what should have been done in the first place,” said Commissioner Bernie Curtis. “Things are pretty much the same as they were.
“It’s an attempt to cut their losses essentially in this whole lawsuit thing where they have expended a huge amount of the taxpayers’ money.”
Carson City spent an estimated $425,000 in legal fees to a Washington, D.C., law firm since last October.
“I feel that it was an ill-advised lawsuit to start with,” Etchegoyhen said. “In any instance, the only clear winner would have been the very expensive Washington, D.C., law firm that Carson City hired. From the beginning there only could have been one winner, and they won.”
Weissinger echoed Etchegoyhen’s remarks.
“We were just flabbergasted that they would spend nearly a half million dollars of reserve funds to fight a lawsuit they were told they would never win,” Weissinger said. “If the Douglas County Board of Commissioners spent that much of the taxpayers’ money like that, there would be people lined up at the post office signing petitions to get us out of office.”
Etchegoyhen said he is excited for the Douglas County landowners that have been waiting to sell their conservation easements to the government to protect the Carson Valley’s open space.
“It has very positive consequences for Douglas County,” he said.
The county has two more sales associated with the north county package in the future and is looking forward to proceeding with those.
“Hopefully we can move ahead with this property and do what is best for the residents of Douglas County,” Smith said.
— R-C News Service writer Jill Lufrano contributed to this report.
– Joey Crandall can be reached at email@example.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.