Douglas officials examine open space preservation plan

The first of three special meetings on an open space preservation plan for Douglas County will be held Thursday night.

The meeting will bring members of the county and planning commissions together to discuss the latest draft of the plan and give the author, County Manager Dan Holler, specific direction on a series of questions he has raised.

"We're looking for comments on it at this point," Holler said. "That's probably the biggest challenge right now."

The 65-page draft outlines potential land preservation techniques, such as buying development rights, working with conservation groups and landowners and combining different techniques for keeping land open. It does not list specific properties as priorities, but County Commission chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen says it doesn't need to.

"If it's irrigated in Carson Valley, it's a high priority," said Etchegoyhen, who manages the Mack Ranch and is also the American Land Conservancy's Nevada director. "It's a tough balance between identifying (desirable) properties and not identifying them so closely that the owners are asking why they weren't asked if they want to participate. I think this does a pretty good job of walking that fine line."

The plan emphasizes that the process would be voluntary, and it lists several areas around the county that could be considered for protection.

Three meetings on the proposed plan are planned over a one-week span. County leaders have a July 17 deadline to submit a ballot question asking voters to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase that could help pay for preserving open space, and the open space plan must be in place for the question to go to voters.

In a report to the commissioners, Holler listed several issues that need some discussion. Etchegoyhen predicted the questions will be answered in plenty of time.

"(The July 17 deadline) is tight, but it will force us to do it," he said. "I see us providing some clear direction on those issues. I think the foundation is really solid. It really is the true implementation of the master plan."

After Thursday, meetings will be held July 11 and July 13.

Douglas County's current sales tax rate is 6.75 percent. A quarter-cent increase would generate an estimated $1 million a year that could be used to preserve undeveloped land.

The question was proposed after a series of workshops on open space preservation. A poll earlier this year found that 59 percent of the 400 people asked would support a quarter-cent sales tax hike to preserve open space, and a committee has already formed to campaign for the question.

If you go:

What: Douglas open-space meeting

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Douglas County courthouse


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