Douglas commissioners kill Park project
November 7, 2008
In the end, promises of open space, community facilities, retained water rights, jobs, workforce housing and other amenities weren’t enough to offset the proposed addition of 4,500 houses in Carson Valley in 40 years.
After nearly five hours of debate and public comment, Douglas County commissioners voted 4-1 late Thursday to deny a land use request from Park Cattle Co. to change more than 1,200 acres from agriculture to receiving area.
Commissioners said they rejected the Park Ranch project because it failed to conform to the master plan, allegations the plan’s proponents refuted.
“There are a lot of positive elements, but there are negative elements, too,” said Mimi Moss, the county’s director of community development.
“It provides a long-range, 50-year plan ” the biggest in the history of Carson Valley. But how do you set a plan in place for future boards and residents?” she asked. “The board needs to weigh all the provisions of the application ” the good and the bad. It’s a balancing act.”
Moss reminded commissioners a single negative finding was enough to deny the project.
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In its report, county staff pointed out when the county passed the growth management ordinace in 2007, adopted Tuesday by voters, there were 4,767 recorded and unrecorded lots in vested subdivision.
“These lots may record and build out at any time. They are not subject to the allocation system,” the report said.
Engineer Rob Anderson, representing Park Cattle, offered a list of endorsements for the plan including Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, the East Fork Fire & Paramedic Employees Association, The Nature Conservancy, University of Nevada, Reno, and other supporters.
“This land represents the most critical and important open space in Carson Valley,” Anderson said. “We have not seen a project in the state of Nevada of this magnitude.”
Chairman Kelly Kite was the only commissioner to support the project.
“I want to support this project. I want to come out of Johnson Lane and not see brown,” Kite said.
He said his participation in the annual Eagles and Agriculture tour had reinforced how important it was to keep water with the land.
“The water belongs to the ranchers. Once it’s gone, it ain’t never coming back,” Kite said.
Reports have estimated Park Cattle could sell its water rights for $200 million.
People started showing up at commission chambers at 4 p.m. to offer public comment and hear the debate which didn’t begin until 6:45 p.m. By 9 p.m., when public comment opened, about 60 people crowded the room with the overflow in the hall outside the chambers.
More than two dozen people took the microphone with support and opposition about evenly split.
Michelle Martin, who said she represented “the younger generation of citizens,” told the commission Carson Valley would look like Double Diamond in Reno if the plan were approved.
“Why would you take away and destroy (agricultural) land that draws people here? Why would we commit to 4,500 homes when we don’t even know if we would like the first 50?” she asked.
Rancher Clarence Burr told commissioners his family and the Parks date back to the 1800s.
Rather than characterizing the Parks as “greedy,” Burr said, “The Park family busted their butts to get what they have today. Park stepped up (in 1995) and bought that property.”
Burr said organizations such as the Sustainable Growth Committee “expect me and my family to keep this Valley green for them. I am no longer a rancher. I am a holding company.
“We are not going to get this water, people, unless you take this offer. I want to keep the Valley green, but the bottom line is water goes with the land. Whether you like this plan or not, I want you to approve it,” he said.
Park Chief Executive Officer Brad Nelson said after the meeting he didn’t know if the company would resubmit the proposal.
“We’ll discuss it and decide what to do,” Nelson said.
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