County wants to broker Forest service swap | RecordCourier.com
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County wants to broker Forest service swap

by Christy Chalmers

Douglas County commissioners are confident they can broker a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service for 28 acres in Indian Hills, despite some bitter thoughts about a delayed exchange at Lake Tahoe.

The commission voted Thursday in its capacity as the county Redevelopment Agency board to start working on an exchange. County Manager Dan Holler said the first step will be to complete an appraisal of the land.

The property is in the county’s redevelopment area, and leaders consider it a logical extension of the North Valley Plaza shopping center now under construction.

The county could acquire the land through an exchange or by the Townsite Act, which allows a direct transfer.

Holler said Forest Service officials have voiced a preference for an exchange, and he thinks it could be done within 12 to 18 months instead of the usual three to five years.

“With the (redevelopment) agency playing the part of the middleman, I think it will run more smoothly,” he said. “We think we can pull it together faster than if the Forest Service and the private sector do it.”

He estimated the county could spend up to $20,000 on the appraisal, but will recoup the money if the land is acquired and sold to a private developer.

The commissioners were enthusiastic, but did allude to the problems surrounding an attempt to trade 46 acres on the east shore of Lake Tahoe into public ownership. The land, known as the Dreyfus Estate, includes buildings that were sold to a private group along with promises the Forest Service would open the land to the public, but the agency later backpedaled, leading to accusations by the commission of backhanded dealings.

At the same time, the process became mired in bureaucracy when the federal government began investigating the exchange. The investigation has concluded with a decision that no criminal charges will be filed, but the work on the exchange is still suspended.

“I’m pleased we’re dealing with the Carson Ranger District vs. the bureaucrats we dealt with at the Forest Service in regards to our discussion up at Lake Tahoe,” said Commissioner Steve Weissinger. “That’s encouraging.”

“Exchanges, when they’re crafted properly, can be fabulous opportunities,” said Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen. “This has been on their list for disposal for more than a decade, and we ought to help them dispose of it and provide a benefit for Douglas County.”

“It’s still going to take some time to do this. It makes sense to start the process and get it over with instead of waiting until we have a prospective buyer and losing them because it’s three to five years out,” said Commissioner Kelly Kite.

Though the county doesn’t have a buyer or occupant committed to the land, Commissioner Don Miner said earlier in the week that the rumors that Costco is considering a north Douglas location are valid.

The North Valley Plaza will be anchored by Home Depot and Target, and Douglas leaders would love to see Costco join them.