Santa Rosa has renewed its interest in buying a former dairy to create a buffer zone at the regional sewage treatment plant on Llano Road.

The Board of Public Utilities has long been interested in acquiring the 277-acre Peters Dairy to prevent additional homes from being built on the property.

The last time the city considered buying the land was in 2009, when embattled financier Clem Carinalli owned it. He was trying to sell it to the city for $9.5 million and later, as the real estate market deteriorated, $6.5 million.

The city passed on the property at that time, citing the price and a desire to avoid the impression it was bailing out Carinalli, whose highly leveraged real estate empire collapsed as property values plunged and payments to investors ceased.

As part of Carinalli's ongoing bankruptcy, the property is now owned by the lender American AgCredit, which loaned Carinalli $3.2 million on the property in 2007, according to county land records.

Carinalli acquired the land, which is close to where he grew up, after foreclosing on loans he made to the previous owner, Curtis Clemmers, who had planned to develop vineyards on it.

Efforts by the bankruptcy trustee to sell the property as three separate parcels for a total of $6.7 million failed last year, and the full property is now being offered for $3.95 million.

The lowered price has piqued the city's interest. The Board of Public Utilities voted last week to enter into negotiations with American AgCredit, under the holding company Heartland Recovery California F#1, about a possible purchase.

The city has since sent an offer letter to the lender. The confidential bid is subject to approval by the BPU board and the City Council, said Josh Maresca, the city's right-of-way agent.

The dairy is no longer in operation, but part of the property continues to be leased as pasture, Maresca told the board. There also are four rental homes on the property and a cellular tower.

The property has previously been marketed as suitable for as many as seven "McMansions" with "little hobby vineyards," Maresca told the board.

That's what the city wants to avoid. If such homes were built near the plant, future neighbors might complain about noise, odors and glare from plant operations and try to force the city to spend millions in upgrades.

In the past, the city has explored partnerships with groups such as the Laguna Foundation, Sonoma Land Trust and the Sonoma County Open Space District to preserve the property, which straddles the Laguna, Maresca said. The city could still partner with such groups, he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or