Carson City at crossroads of Sierra growth

Carson City may seem insulated from the booming growth of the Sierra Nevada over the coming decades, with a 3 percent growth policy in place, a limited amount of room to expand and a master plan update that appears headed toward discouraging urban sprawl. Instead, it's in the middle of things.

The Sierra Nevada Alliance fired off a warning this week that California and Nevada counties along the Sierra Nevada better get ready - the growth they've seen may be nothing compared with what's coming down the pike.

That may be hard to believe, with Nevada already leading the union in growth and Lyon County leading the state in the percentage of population increase. Could it possibly grow much faster?

The answer is yes. But the more compelling issue is just how such growth will affect the quality of life residents already enjoy.

Some Dayton-area residents already bemoan the loss of their rural way of life. They may like the new stores, the rising property values and access to more services such as health care. But with all that comes traffic congestion, crime and a change in the character of the place.

Carson City can never be insulated against growth, because of its location as a crossroads and regional shopping hub. Before Northern Nevada added 100,000 people in the past decade, residents probably wondered where all those people would live. We look around now and see houses where we never imagined before. It's not hard to see a future with developments climbing further up the hillsides, Washoe Valley full of condos, and Highway 395 an expressway from Reno to Gardnerville.

"It is not a choice about having homes or businesses versus having wildlands and recreation," said Tina Nappe of the Sierra Club. "We can have it all in the Sierra - but we need to plan now how we will do that. Smart planning can save the Sierra we love. Poor planning will sacrifice Sierra vistas and natural areas to the steady march of sprawl."

Transportation, open space, parks and recreation, water and air quality, jobs, taxes, affordable housing - every one is a growth issue. It's not a question of growing, but of growing smarter.


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