Douglas commissioners reject attempt to kill funding source for proposed Lake Tahoe events center
After hearing from nearly 40 speakers over 90 minutes, Douglas County commissioners voted 3-2 against beginning the process of dissolving a redevelopment area at Stateline.
Commissioner Dave Nelson proposed dissolving the area, saying property taxes generated there should not go to fund an events center at Stateline.
Speakers in favor of preserving the redevelopment area outnumbered opponents 2-1.
Several of the proponents either work or will benefit from the area, opponent Tom Starrett pointed out.
“They are those who will feed from a free taxpayer slush fund,” Starrett said. “These are nothing more than rosy predictions. If they’re wrong taxpayers are left holding the bag.”
Nelson sought to have staff work on a resolution to be put on the 2020 ballot.
However, commissioner Wes Rice argued they were elected to represent voters and make decisions.
“They want to bring it to a vote because they know in Douglas County nothing passes.”
Commissioner Larry Walsh said he wanted to see how the numbers played out.
“I have to follow my heart as to how I vote,” he said. “I want to see numbers and reports.”
Thursday’s meeting was a continuation of a debate begun on May 16 and interrupted by an altercation involving Commission Chairman Barry Penzel and Commissioner John Engels.
The supplemental investigation into that incident has been completed, Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury said Thursday.
Woodbury is allowing the two men to supplement their original written statements if they want.
He said he’s given them until June 28 to do that.
On Wednesday, Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority representative Lew Feldman told members of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce that they are only seeking $25 million of the money the redevelopment area is expected to raise.
That accounts for slightly less than a quarter of the cost of the proposed events center.
The other three-quarters will come from a $5 a night surcharge and 2 percent of the authority’s transient lodging license tax.
The authority expects to go to bond for the center, which he said will cost redevelopment about $1.6 million a year.
Stateline redevelopment was approved in 2016 to build an indoor venue for large concerts and conventions.
At the time it was anticipated that redevelopment would be the main source of funding for construction, but County Manager Patrick Cates said Thursday that the surcharge will take over most of that requirement.
However, redevelopment will still raise more than $100 million over its lifetime should predictions come true.
County commissioners sit as the redevelopment board, and could dissolve the area at any time. Redevelopment Area No. 1 in the north Valley was dissolved nearly a decade early.
However, Deputy District Attorney Zach Wadlé said that if commissioners agreed to use proceeds to bond for the events center that could complicate dissolving the area.
No bonds could be purchased by the redevelopment agency without a vote from the commission.
Cates said another bill approved by the Legislature would allow commissioners to carve out property tax supporting the school district, something that hasn’t been allowed before.
Tahoe resident Kelly Krolicki pointed out that just because property tax goes to support schools, that doesn’t necessarily mean it goes to Douglas schools.
“If you have more ad valorem, you get less money from the state,” she said. “The school district doesn’t actually receive the money unless it’s been run through the Nevada Plan.”
While redevelopment won’t be on the 2020 ballot, it will definitely be an issue in the 2020 election.
Nelson, Walsh and Penzel are all up for re-election next year. A change on the commission could affect the future of the redevelopment area.