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Grant is OK’d by county

by Christy Chalmers

With visions of $60 million in yearly sales in their eyes, Douglas County leaders unanimously OK’d a $3.5 million redevelopment grant for J.S. Devco Thursday.

The money will be used to install sewer and water pipes, widen Jacks Valley Road, landscape Vista Grande Boulevard and make other improvements around land near the Douglas County line that is expected to be the site of the county’s first major retail center. The money was approved by the county commission, which also acts as the county’s redevelopment authority.

“I think the return on our investment is excellent,” said Commissioner Steve Weissinger. “I think if we just sat back and waited for state government to send us another $100,000 or the federal government to put something in the pipeline, we’d be in big trouble.”

“This is a bold and decisive action. I think it’s expected of us that we take that kind of action,” said Commissioner Bernie Curtis.

“This is one of the few instances where we can get growth to pay its own burden,” agreed Jacques Etchegoyhen, adding it would complement the Carson Valley’s historic downtown areas. “You still have the chance to make Minden and Gardnerville the quaint Norman Rockwell downtowns that they are. I don’t see a downside.”

The retail center is proposed for 47 acres on the west side of Highway 395 at Jacks Valley Road. The land, which is in Douglas County’s North County Redevelopment Area, recently won a master plan revision designating it for commercial development.

Developer John Serpa submitted preliminary plans for a shopping center with 370,000 square feet of retail space. Serpa representative Rick Gardner said the company is in negotiations with Home Depot and Target to anchor the complex.

The commissioners were told the complex could bring $450,000 in sales tax revenue to the county in its second year, with total sales of $60 million a year once it’s completed. That would help staunch the long-lamented sales tax leakage that occurs every time Douglas County residents head to Carson City to shop.

Preliminary estimates say Serpa will have to spend at least $5.5 million to improve the land, plus another $15 million to develop the first phase of 120,000 square feet of retail space. The redevelopment money will be used on surrounding county land for improvements that will complement the ones Serpa makes.

County Manager Dan Holler said the first phase could be built by December 1999 if construction starts in the spring. He said the redevelopment money would speed the process.

“If you were to wait for development, I think you’re going to wait five or 10 years for these improvements to be done,” said Holler. By using redevelopment money, “You’re really not taking existing money away from any county agency. It’s not like we’re taking money out of the county general fund or the sheriff’s office or parks and recreation.”

Though specific funding arrangements haven’t been worked out, the redevelopment authority could issue bonds. Separate action on funding approval will be taken when the specifics are decided.

By law, the county can’t spend more than $3.5 million in redevelopment money on the Serpa project. Holler noted that while that amount is approved, the actual amount spent may be less because the county will seek grants from other sources.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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