Park Cattle Company Plans for Douglas County

Posted by Mitch Argon / CalNeva Realty on Sunday, January 27th, 2008 at 7:46pm.

Park Cattle Company and Proposed Douglas County Master Plan Amendment

I recently attended (Wed. 1/23/08) a "public forum meeting" by Park Cattle Company, a long time ranching family in the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe (all Douglas County, NV) with land holdings in Carson Valley alone of at least 4,500 acres.  Like many of the ranches that have been passed along generations, these ranch owners (although due to its size is professionally managed) have reached a point where they want to seriously consider the best way to maximize their financial returns based on the value of the land versus the yield from cattle and alfalfa ranching.  This is not a new concept (we've all seen countless examples of this done well and not so well) and it is not a bad thing (if you owned this land, you - or your heirs - would be contemplating similar strategies).

There were about 80-90 people in attendance at this meeting, which was the third in a series.  When reading over these alternatives, keep in mind that the planning horizon for the Park Cattle Company plan is over 30-50 years.

From what I gathered, there are four potential paths the Park Cattle Company could follow regarding its land holdings in Carson Valley.

Path #1.  Do Nothing Different.
Continue to run the cattle ranch and farming business as it has been done and evolved over the last several decades or more.  This is not likely to happen, however, most of the people at the meeting (those who were offering up comments) seem to prefer this option the most.

Path #2.  Sell the land off - parcel by parcel.
Most of the 4,500 acres is currently zoned R-19 (which allows one single family residence per 19 acres).  This would allow Park Cattle to sell about 230-250 home sites (some of the land is also zoned as 5 acre parcels).  This approach probably gives Park Cattle the most leverage to negotiate concessions to the Douglas county master plan (for what they really want to do which will yield more return on the land holdings).  The citizens at the meeting are violently opposed to this as a good portion of the land is on the West side of Highway 395 and nobody wants to see the Carson Valley's most treasured open space dotted with McMansions obstructing the natural views all enjoy today.  This path is also not likely to be seriously pursued but will be "on the table" as a negotiating alternative due to its unpopular public support. 

Path #3. "Cluster" more homes to higher density parcels.
I am not the expert on Douglas county land planning but the "clustering" concept basically provides incentives to a land developer to allow for more home parcels in "higher density" zones in exchange for not being able to build at all on parcels that in areas of "open space", "along the Carson River", etc.  Based on the clustering provisions within Douglas County, Park Cattle could develop and sell about 600 home sites on the East side of Carson Valley (near Minden Elementary School heading east along Buckeye road).  While the 600 number is much higher than the 230 to 250 under path #2, it would likely be a bitter pill to swallow for Park Cattle based on the amount of land they own.  To put this in perspective, Saratoga Springs in the Johnson Lane area has about 550 lots and the Chichester subdivision has about 900 single family lots.  With the ability to McMansionize the Carson Valley with by pursuing path #2 as a negotiating tool, this path also is not a likely outcome.

Path #4. Preserve Open Space & Create More Parcels (than Path #3)
While not stating so directly, Park Cattle will be requesting changes to the Douglas County Master Plan that will allow them to create more than 600 home sites (the number will become public on June 1st when the plan is submitted to the County).  Certainly, their land holdings are large enough to accommodate this.  From what I gleaned, their approach will be to offer up land preservation and public infrastructure to the county and its citizens in exchange for the ability to develop home sites beyond their current property rights.  By land preservation, they referenced the large parcels on the West side of Highway 395 up to and along the Carson River.  Public infrastructure? Senior Center, completion of highway infrastructure (like Muller Lane), bike/walking trails from town to and along the Carson River, mixed use commercial/office projects - these projects and others were mentioned during the meeting as part of the public input process. 

When Park Cattle Company pursues Path #4 by submitting their plan on June 1, 2008, an extended public debate will follow for months.

The ultimate deal that is reached (the proposed plans will require 3 'yes' votes from the 5 county commissioners) will indelibly change the Carson Valley for generations.

My take: While I am a real estate broker in this area, I am first a resident and would likely not have any direct or immediate benefit from any "excessive development" (I have no business relationship with Park Cattle Company and likely won't based on their long standing roots and relationships to others in the real estate business in the area). Change and growth is coming and there is no stopping it.  Planning (and following plans) is clearly the first step in managing the change and growth.  Due to the amount (and variety) of land Park Cattle owns and the unique contributions that could possibly be made to the community, I think the proposed plan should be carefully reviewed and studied with an open mind.  I am probably as anxious as you to see what the plan includes.

Are you for - or against - consideration of a Master Plan amendment?  Leave a comment. 

Mitch Argon
Broker - CalNeva Realty

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