Steven Hasson can see half a million people living in Lyon County someday.
That is, only if water is available.
"I don't think it is unreasonable to think it," he said. "I think in the next 20 years, there will be populations of 50,000 in Fernley, Dayton and maybe Silver Springs."
And in preparing for that possibility, Hasson has his work cut out for him.
As Lyon County's first planning director - the office has been open since December - he must plan for growth in the fastest-growing county in the Western United States, a county that grew by 28 percent last year.
That's a lot of growth for a county that wrote its last master plan in 1990. Hasson will begin work on a new one this fall.
"For every four people living in Dayton, one is a new resident since last year," Hasson said, noting that Dayton alone grew by 23 percent last year. "Those kinds of growth rates are hard to plan for."
Land-use planning is what he has done for the past 23 years in five states, and he doesn't seem deterred by the challenges facing Lyon County. As a county commissioner in Spokane, Wash., he served a county of 500,000.
"I got to see Lyon County's future," he said. "It has tremendous growing pains ahead, but also lots of opportunities."
The migration of Californians to Nevada is behind the anticipated growth, Hasson said.
"California has 35 million people, and it's scheduled to have 50 million by the year 2020," he said. "As you bring that many more people there's going to be a greater and greater interest in exodus for those living there, and they're likely to come here."
Planning is what will smooth the way to handling that growth, Hasson said. He wants to hear from residents to aid in creating the best plan possible and is fairly certain he will.
"One thing about land-use planning, people are quick to tell you their thoughts, values, sense of community and beliefs about land use," he said. "You have to hear it correctly."
Hasson said land-use philosophy in the West centered around the outdoors and private property rights. He compared it to the philosophy he found when he worked in Ohio.
"In Ohio, we look to the government to take care of something as the first response, and if needed, we'll jump in too," he said. "In the West, the philosophy is we'll take care of it and if need be, we'll turn to the government.
"You don't want to have land-use rules that trespasses against the philosophy," Hasson said. "And the only people who know the philosophy are the ones who live here."
The master plan revision process will begin in October or November, and Hasson anticipates it will take about 18 months. He will hold meetings with residents of all the sub areas on a regular basis. The sub areas are Dayton, Mound House, Stagecoach, Silver Springs, Mason Valley and Smith Valley.
A few communities, such as Dayton and Smith Valley, have already developed their own plans.
Hasson expects to create a master plan that incorporates those of individual sub-areas.
"You have to be sure to reflect the communities' views and values," he said. "The best way to create a master plan is to keep the character of each town. One-size-fits-all doesn't work well in Lyon County."
Hasson believes that it's better to plan for newcomers rather than complain about them, because they're coming anyway.
"People are moving here for the same reasons the people who are here now moved here," he said. "They're going to come. If you don't recognize that and plan for it, they'll do it for you."
Hasson said the way to preserve what's important to locals is to build it into the master plan.
"You use the master plan to construct subdivision ordinances and zoning ordinances," he said. "It is a powerful way to influence regulations."
And making sure the infrastructure is in place, the roads, water and sewage facilities, will smooth the way for Lyon County, and is more sensible financially.
"It cost three times as much to go back and do something retroactive than to do it right the first time," he said.
n Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.
• Lyon County grew by 28 percent in 2004
• Dayton grew by 23 percent in 2004.
• Lyon County is the fastest-growing county in the western United States, ranking first in growth among of 415 counties in 11 Western states.
• Lyon County ranked seventh in growth among 3,152 counties in the United States, the only Western state in the top 10.
• The national average for growth is 1 percent to 2 percent per year.