Consolidated city government chugs along, for the most part
July 7, 2013
Altering a city government incentive pact with a prominent car dealer and realigning city staff both proved relatively easy for Carson City's Board of Supervisors.
That's not to say governing board members were ecstatic last week to give Dick Campagni city property appraised at $415,000. But giving Campagni the parcel next to his Toyota dealership was better in their eyes than dinging the general fund via a different option. The negotiated deal passed muster.
So, too, did the realignment of some city staff into a re-established Community Development Department to be led by Lee Plemel, the city's chief planner and top man at what was the Planning Division. Planning and other divisions leave Public Works. City staff voiced support, said there is no immediate cost, and the board OK'd it without dissent.
Wednesday's most contentious issue was an appeal aimed at blocking a duplex on land at 1512 N. Nevada St. Property owner Steve Yochum actually wants two houses there, where one and a garage now stand, and this duplex special use permit was appealed from a 6-1 Planning Commission approval earlier. Various neighbors opposed it.
Mayor Robert Crowell and supervisors questioned the neighbors extensively, but in the end split 3-2 on an issue the mayor kept calling tough. The majority vote upheld the commission decision by the slimmest of margins.
Whether the outcome was right or wrong, the handling of the case showed Carson City's consolidated government format works over time. Sometimes it does so by fits and starts; however, it generally works, albeit with a clank or two.
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Nearly all city government policy power rests with the board. Various citizens' committees, if you will, make recommendations to the board.
City staff provides recommendations as well; staff input often is more or at least as critical to decisions as are advisory panels' ideas. But there are appropriate avenues and public forums for residents' advocacy.
In the duplex case, had there been no appeal the special use permit would have stood. The Planning Commission does have some powers, such as special use permits, but in other cases acts as an adviser to the board. Yet even the use permit authority allows for appeal.
It's an efficient, focused governmental system. No system is perfect, but this ain't bad.
Perhaps that's why Luke Schmidt of L.B. Schmidt & Associates LLC, a Kentucky-based consultant, came here last week for clients in his state considering consolidated government. Next week, perhaps, you'll get a couple of his insights about Carson City's government in this space.
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.