Partnership seeking buyers

Group looking to broker deal for Emerald Mountain

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— Members of the Emerald Mountain Partnership said this week the group could broker a deal for the acquisition of the mountain as early as next year.

The group will meet with the State Land Board in January to discuss possible alternatives for purchasing the 6,345-acre property, which is estimated to cost $17 million. The State Land Board owns the property.

The partnership is trying to broker a deal between the land board and a third party who would be interested in conserving all or significant parts of the land. "It is a real possibility we could have a successful transaction by the end of next year," said Ken Brenner, chairman of the group.

The partnership is also working with the Sierra Club, which has indicated it would provide funding to preserve the mountain from development. The club is interested in giving the partnership "a substantial" amount of money previously committed to a project that has been resolved, Brenner said.

"It is like an early Christmas present," he said. "I cannot reveal the amount, but it is plenty. It is a very generous gesture of support."

To gain funding from the Sierra Club, the partnership must come up with an agreement with a potential buyer, which would be acceptable to the land board.

To accomplish this goal, the seven-member board has a plan in place.

First for the group is whether to expand the board to nine members. Brenner is expected to resign his post on the board because he lost his City Council seat to Paul Antonucci. Councilman Paul Strong has replaced Brenner.

The board will make a decision on adding two members during its next meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 7. If the board decides to expand, Brenner said he would seek one of the positions.

Along with the membership issue, the board is evaluating the qualifications that were tendered by seven parties who have expressed interest in acquiring the property.

The potential buyers, who are being kept confidential, had to answer 11 questions by Nov. 30 to be considered by the group. In the questionnaire, potential buyers had to include how their plan would conserve the property and maintain wildlife, agricultural use and the health of the forest and vegetation.

Potential buyers who submit a request for proposal would supply the partnership with a specific plan of how the mountain could be conserved. The group expects development will be included in the proposals.

The partnership decided to seek potential buyers for the property rather than ask the public for money. The group made its decision based on information from a random survey it conducted earlier this year.

To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205

or e-mail gsalazar@steamboatpilot.com

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