Despite opposition from county planners, the Washoe Tribe, members of the slow-growth initiative and environmental groups, commissioners voted 4-1 last week to approve the proposed Clear Creek Ranch project.
Carson City businessman John Serpa promised several benefits to Douglas County, including substantial tax revenues including $15 million annually from residents and $5 million annually in property taxes alone.
The project on 1,576 acres includes 384 $1 million homes, open space preserved through a 221-acre golf course, and 360 acres within residential areas.
Before commissioners action last week, the property was zoned one home per 19 acres and would have allowed 86 homes.
Developers plan to transfer density from Carson Valley agricultural land to the Clear Creek property.
Access to the development will be from an interchange on Highway 50 and Clear Creek Road.
Project manager Greg Haws showed several before and after doctored photos he said proves the development will be barely visible from Carson Valley.
The site is bounded by U.S. Forest Service public lands, property owned by the Washoe Tribe, private owners and Douglas County. It is a half-mile north of Jacks Valley Road and south of Old Clear Creek Road, west of Highway 395.
The Douglas County Planning Commission recommended denial of the project last month. It cited several reasons, including that the project is not an appropriate use of the county's transfer of development rights program, not consistent with the 1996 Master Plan, and that it is unnecessary to designate a new receiving area that would allow for development.
Mimi Moss of the Community Development Department said 129 letters in support of the project and 36 letters in opposition were received by the county.
A few days prior to the commission meeting, the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce and the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Authority sent a letter to members asking for their support of the project. Byron Waite of the Business Council of Douglas County also spoke in support of the project.
Residents of neighboring communities to the project site in Alpine View Estates and off Bavarian Drive were divided about the project.
Mary Bennington, a Washoe Tribe representative, said the tribe opposes the project.
"The negative benefits far outweigh the benefits," Bennington said.
Representatives from the Nature Conservancy and the Carson Valley Trails Association were against the project because of possible environmental impacts. Members of the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee fighting in Nevada Supreme Court to have voter-approved building limits enacted, were concerned about the water the project will need.
"It seems we have no real vision for our county," said Barbara Slade president of the trails association. The site "is a natural treasure and it would be a travesty to overdevelop.
"If we allow this ... we will have lost the heart and soul of Douglas County and we will stand for nothing."