The Storey County Planning Commission's recent recommendation to grant Comstock Mining Inc. a special use permit for exploration drilling in an enlarged area has been appealed.
Paul Cirac, Virginia City designer and graphic artist filed the appeal on Friday.
"There is a whole host of citizen concerns that the public has raised over the past several months," said Cirac, director of the Comstock Residents Association, which opposes open pit mining in the Virginia City National Landmark.
"One concern is the disturbance of mercury-laden soil within the national priority Carson River Superfund site before the state and federal agencies complete their assessment," Cirac said. "Another is the history of serious, ongoing noncompliance issues with the applicant, and another is the application's apparent conflict with existing zoning and Storey County Master Plan."
Pointing to numerous deficiencies in the SUP application, the appeal emphasizes that the public has not been given adequate opportunity to participate in deliberations about this decision. At the two most recent meetings to consider the SUP request, many local residents had to stand outside the courtroom and hear the proceedings over a loudspeaker.
"At the last meeting there were people from back east testifying about what a nice guy the mining company's CEO is," said Tom Cleaves, proprietor with his wife Nancy of the Maynard Station Saloon and Nevada Store in Gold Hill. "An out-of-town investor scolded residents for being non-supportive, and a technical expert/investor from Arizona expounded at length on the virtues of mining, while local people had to stand and wait outside for hours to talk about the issues. Many simply gave up and went home before their turn to speak."
Author and publisher David Toll, a Gold Hill resident for more than 50 years, also shared his concerns.
"More than 400 residents, well over half the voters in Gold Hill and Virginia City, have petitioned the county to refuse the permit, yet our concerns have scarcely been acknowledged. The county spared no expense in providing workshops for a new sign ordinance recently, but for this history-making decision the people are being marginalized. I worry that we may end up having to sue the county," Toll said.
A resident's association request that the appeal be heard at a time convenient to working citizens and in a larger venue was denied. Instead, the appeal will be considered by the Storey County Commission at 2 p.m. Oct. 4 at the courthouse in Virginia City.