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Questions to be aired Thursday

by Sheila Gardner

Members of Nevada’s congressional delegation are among the people invited to Thursday’s county commission meeting to discuss the county’s working relationship with the U.S. Forest Service.

“A spirit of cooperation must be demonstrated by the Forest Service,” said Commissioner Don Miner. “Right now, all transactions are subject to suspicion.”

The transaction currently under scrutiny by Douglas County involves the Dreyfus Estate, a 40-acre homestead on Lake Tahoe. County officials are upset at the Forest Service for what they say were public promises to support a bid to open the buildings to the public while the USFS later secretly killed the plans.

“We don’t want to be told one thing – that the Dreyfus deal will protect the tax base by bringing the private secotor in – and now the Forest Service says they don’t see a use for those structures, so we should bring them down,” Miner said Tuesday. “That’s unacceptable behavior.”

This will be the second meeting with the Forest Service. An earlier session was attended by a representative of Juan Palma, forest supervisor for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the Forest Service.

Palma has been invited to Thursday’s session along with U.S. Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan, Nevada Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick and U.S. Rep. John Ensign.

“We’ve invited the Forest Service to come in twice to talk about the transaction involving the Dreyfus estate and they failed to bring in the decision makers. ‘Decision maker’ was the key word because the Forest Service decided the paper work signed by their personnel didn’t have any authority,” Miner said.

Miner said the Park Cattle Co., which bought the rights to the buildings, had committed $5 million to upgrading and refurbishing the compound as a site for such uses as a bed and breakfast, retreats and weddings.

The Dreyfus estate includes 40 lakefront acres, a main house, caretaker’s home garage and other buildings. It is adjacent to Zephyr Cove park.

“Seven months after the fact, the Forest ervice says the deal wasn’t authorized,” Miner said. “In the interim, the Park Cattle Co., believing it had ownership of the structures, went forward with planning the area. They brought in an architect to redo the structures to bring them up to Douglas County code, including sprinkling the entire facility. They had all these plans laid out to improve the center for uses that would not only preserve the property tax base for Douglas County, but would provide a boost for tourism.”

Miner said the Forest Service’s apparent about face has placed all the county’s dealings with the agency in jeopardy.

“Douglas County came within a gnat’s eyebrow of attaining those structures,” Miner said. “Would the county have been treated the same way by the Forest Service? That’s the belly of the issue. Douglas County is very concerned about going ahead with any transactions with the Forest Service until we know who the decision makers are.

“It’s quite shocking to me that the person who stood next to President Clinton at Lake Tahoe and made promises about partnerships didn’t have the authority to commit to such a transaction,” Miner said.

He said the county has been encouraged by recent changes in attitude from other government agencies to develop partnerships.

“It’s in the county’s best interest to pursue these business relationships where there is merit to citizens of Douglas County,” Miner said. “We have seen a positive change in the Bureau of Land Management recently and that relationship needs to be cultured and grown. We haven’t seen a demonstrable interest in the Forest Service to work in harmony and true partnership, and we will be going to explore that on Thursday,” Miner said.

The Forest Service appears to want out of management of improved parcels, and Douglas County is eager to facilitate that process, Miner said.

“We do want to explore the possibility of removing the Forest Service from managing improved parcels so we can develop a private/public partnership to improve the environment and the economy which will make public access more available and more convenient to the citizens of Douglas County and others,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting begins at 3 p.m. and will be held at the commission chambers in the old courthouse in Minden, 1616 Eighth St.

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

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