General election can change future of Carson Valley

Candidates for the Douglas County Commission are split in their stances on key ballot questions as campaigning winds down for Tuesday's general election.

All factions of the pro and con camps for ballot questions 1 through 4 are up in the air about their chances of victory.

Incumbents Jacques Etchegoyhen, District 2, and Don Miner, District 4, are in favor of the first three ballot questions, and against question 4. Etchegoyhen's challenger Mike Hayes is against 1-3, and "all for" question 4. Tim Smith, Miner's opponent, is in favor of 1, 2 and 3, and opposed to 4.

Question 1 is an increase of the optional 5-cent gas tax over two years. Question 2 is a 50-cents-per-square-foot tax on new construction of non-residential buildings. Question 3 asks voters to raise the sales tax by one-quarter of 1 percent (.0025) to be used for construction and repair of roads as well as issue bonds for road projects.

On the ballot, question 4 begins with a disclaimer that it is the subject of litigation currently pending before the Nevada Supreme Court. The controversial SGI, limits growth of dwelling units in the county to 280 per year.

While it is not likely, the high court could make a final decision in the latest rounds of appeals before the election.

The court has yet to decide on three matters: 1) If it was proper for Douglas District Court to intervene preelection on allowing the ballot question; 2) Whether the ballot measure is constitutionally permissible as an amendment to an existing law; or 3) Whether the initiative process proposes a new law that is either legislative or administrative in nature.

Miner will spend the last weekend before the election canvassing Ruhenstroth, the Gardnerville Ranchos and the Pleasant View neighborhoods. He has planned an appreciation night at the Genoa Lakes Golf Course Sports Bar from 7-10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Miner is in support of 1, 2, and 3 because he supports protecting the "safety and quality of Douglas County roads." He said question 4 is a "bad process and a bad precedent for Douglas County."

"I am concerned we will lose substantial amounts of money that now pay for our quality of life," said Miner, adding that money typically taken in the general fund from developer fees goes toward parks and recreation, law enforcement and senior services to name a few.

Etchegoyhen echoes those sentiments. He recently compared gas prices in Carson City and Reno to those in Douglas County and said the amounts are the same.

"Someone is already pocketing that 5-cents," he said, "and I just as soon see it go to Douglas County."

Etchegoyhen said question 4 is the most important issue on the ballot. While he agrees with the concept, he said the low limit does concern him.

"Strictly interpreted, if it passes, if someone's house burned down, the ordinance clearly says they can't rebuild if the limit is reached," he said.

"This is one that folks have to vote their conscience."

Etchegoyhen also plans to visit various Carson Valley neighborhoods this weekend for some last-minute campaigning.

"It is a way to run off nervous energy," he said. "I am finding that a surprising number of people have already voted."

He believes his chances for re-election are good.

"I think I have a proven track record," he said.

But, Etchegoyhen said, "because there is no polling in Douglas County, it is very difficult to obtain the pulse of the community."

Hayes will be walking door-to-door also this weekend, distributing fliers in the Westwood, Ironwood, Ruhenstroth and Winhaven communities.

Hayes is not confident he will oust Etchegoyhen.

"What probably disappointed me the most was that we didn't have an opportunity to debate," he said. "I wish I could have gotten out the point that ranchers need to be compensated for drainage and usage and think it could have become a big issue."

Hayes said he is opposed to ballot questions 1-3 because the "the issue should have been addressed with (developer) impact fees."

As for question 4, Hayes said he is all for it.

"People need a chance to send the message to slow things down," he said.

Smith is in favor of 1, 2 and 3, and said "it is a fair and equitable way to distribute taxes, instead just residents (paying toward roads upkeep) tourists will pay, too."

Smith said he is opposed to question 4 because of the vagueness of the language.

"Dwelling is difficult to define," he said. "And if it passes, it takes effect now.

"How can we limit to 280 when we have 600 permits already out?"

Bob Nunes, director of the Douglas County Community Development Department, said applications for new building permits in the Valley have increased dramatically as the election draws near. He said the department typically gets three applications daily on average, compared to nearly 100 in the last week. A duplex is considered two dwelling units, a building with 30 apartments is 30 dwelling units.

"If the initiative passes it immediately becomes effective," said Nunes. "We work on a first-come, first-served basis, and we are not changing anything here. We may stop issuing the permits daily, but the process will be the same as always."

Judy Sturgis, vice chair of the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee, said she has no idea what the outcome will be Tuesday evening. An airplane was spotted on two days this week in the Carson Valley pulling signs reading "vote no on question 4" one day, and "vote yes on question 4" the next. Sturgis said the SGI group did not know who commissioned those flights.

She said they sent out more than 21,000 pieces of direct mail and are calling petition signers to get out and vote. Still, she said, her phone is ringing off the hook from supporters and she thinks the election will have a positive outcome.

Carole Thompson of the Douglas County Building Industry Association said her group, which opposes question 4, plans door-to-door visits this weekend, too, in their own area neighborhoods.

"I am extremely exhausted and will be glad when this is over," she said. "I just think (the SGI supporters) should have gone through proper procedures. I don't understand how they want to turn over the administration (of the growth-limiting process) to Douglas County when they are constantly criticizing the county. I think the voters know this hasn't been handled properly."

Gary Pyle, who wrote the ballot argument against questions 1, 2, and 3, basically stood as a committee of one against the proposed taxes. He said he has done no campaigning and said there were no big money interests to support activities to defeat the questions. He said those ballot questions will be defeated -- although he does think question 2 may have a chance.

"The big thing is that voters are sending a message to the county that a Capital Improvement Plan needs to be adopted before it goes to taxpayers," he said. "I've said these things too many times. I am kind of glad this is coming to a head."

Jim Winans, chairman of the Transportation 20/20 Committee, which proposed ballot questions 1, 2 and 3, said his group was merely providing a service to the community.

"We have poured two years into this, and tried to talk to as many Douglas County citizens as possible," he said. "Our message is out there and now it is up to the people.

"We hope for the best, but this has been very low-budget and we have to deal with whatever happens.

"We are hoping for the best, but like everyone else, we just have to wait and see."


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