Ponderosa goes to potential developer
INCLINE VILLAGE – In a surprising turn of events the owners of the 570-acre Ponderosa Ranch announced they have agreed to sell the historic property to local Incline Village businessman David Duffield for what Duffield’s representative Tom Clark called, “comparable to what the agencies were offering.”
The property, which was put up for sale in February, has operated as a theme park since the late 1960s and was based on the television western “Bonanza.”
“Running the Ponderosa Ranch these many years has been a great experience for our family,” said David Geddes, president of the Ponderosa Ranch. “We started looking at options to sell the property about a year ago.”
Since the announcement the ranch was up for sale, the Geddes and Anderson families, through the Minden-based company Terra Firma Associates, had been trying to work a deal that would involve the purchase of the property by various government agencies, including the Incline Village General Improvement District, Nevada State Parks, Washoe County, United States Forest Service, Department of Transportation and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.
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“While these agencies have done a fantastic job in trying to put together a very complex project, the deal was still in the formative stages and had an awful lot of contingencies,” Geddes said. “When we went public with our plans to sell, we knew that it had to be done in a timely manner and, even though we knew that the agencies were working hard, David’s (Duffield) offer allowed us to meet that goal.”
“The agencies involved, even though they worked very hard, never really made a commitment,” Royce Anderson, vice president and Co-owner of the Ponderosa said. “We just felt that this was the best thing for our families to pursue.”
Although he was not available for comment, Duffield issued a press release saying that he has no plans for any immediate development of the property.
“As a full-time resident of Incline Village, I appreciate the concerns about the future of this property as it is the gateway to our community.”
“I’ve known David (Duffield) for a long time and I know that he’s very genuine in his desire to do something good for the community,” Geddes said. “This will allow the agencies more time and a chance to plan and work with the new ownership.”
Representatives of the agencies involved in the negotiations expressed shock at the news.
“I’m disappointed,” Nevada State Parks Administrator David Morrow said. “Very much so and shocked.
“Our staff was up there just this past Tuesday, discussing plans. I’ve been out of town, got back this morning and was shocked when I heard the news.”
As for whether his department has plans to approach the Duffield ownership group, Morrow said, “Certainly we would be interested if there was any chance we could negotiate a deal with the new ownership.”
Karen Mullen, director of Washoe County Parks was also caught off guard by the announcement.
“The wind has gone out of the sails,” Mullen said. “There was so much work put into this and we (the agencies) were so close to getting it all done.”
Morrow added that her agency would be more than willing to participate in a future deal, but for now, “I have to get my breath back.”
Maribeth Gustafson, supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit said that her agency is disappointed that it wasn’t able to acquire the property directly but, “We retain the hope that we will be able to work with the new owners to acquire the upper part of the property for public and conservation purposes,” Gustafson said.
Julie Regan, communications director for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said she was surprised when she heard the news.
“The agency invested a lot of time and resources into the process,” Regan said. “We just heard the news this morning so we’re still getting facts. We’ll know more as we uncover the details.”
“My initial reaction is that we spent hundreds of staff hours on making this deal work,” Incline Village General Improvement District General Manager Bill Horn said. “I’m extremely disappointed, but from a positive standpoint, I guess it buys us more time.”
IVGID Board Chairman Syd Brosten was more upbeat when asked his reaction.
“I actually think it’s one of the best things to happen to Incline Village,” Brosten said. “Bonding $8 million at this time would not be prudent or in the best interest of the community.”
Brosten said that for the district to go ahead with the deal right now would mean an increase in recreation fees and “I know that wouldn’t be acceptable to the community.”
The new owners, Duffield, his wife Cheryl and their six children have lived in Incline Village since 1999 and are active in many community endeavors. Duffield was founder and CEO of the business software maker PeopleSoft.
A staunch supporter of the local Boys and Girls Clubs, Duffield is also chairman and benefactor of Lake Tahoe School.
Duffield acknowledged the hard work of the numerous entities involved in the attempt to acquire the property for various public purposes, and expressed his desire to fully consider the public goals in future evaluations of the property.
In his press release Duffield said, “I am aware of how this property might help solve some of the issues facing our community, such as the need for a transportation center, and the need for land coverage for public projects that might become available through a large-scale restoration project and in time, I would like to figure out what is good for our community and how we might address some of those needs with a long-term plan that will benefit all of us.”
According to Anderson and Geddes, the ranch is still going ahead with business as usual.
“Now that this is done, we want to let people know that the Ponderosa is planning to continue doing business as usual until our closing on Sept. 26,” Anderson said. “This is the last chance people will be able to see the ranch as it is and has been since 1967.”
Anderson also said that plans were in the works to auction off the numerous antiques and old farm machinery and wagons next summer.
“We are planning a worldwide auction, probably on the Internet to give people a chance to own a piece of the Ponderosa,” Anderson said.
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