Development-rights process in Fallon to be explained

FALLON - A workshop to explain the features of transferring development rights to farmers, ranchers, developers and residents is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in Fallon.

An ordinance draft that would allow the transfer of development rights from agricultural lands to urban developments is in the works by Churchill County.

"The whole community benefits," said Jeannette Dahl, director of the Lahontan Valley Environmental Alliance. "It helps to keep the ag economy strong. It helps to allow development to continue, by keeping ag lands in production. It helps to recharge the aquifer, it helps provide good drinking water for the community and preserves our rural atmosphere."

"We're open to anyone's ideas. When water's affected, we're all affected," Dahl said.

The draft of the proposed ordinance states the intent of the transfer of development-rights program is to reduce development pressures on agricultural lands, drinking-water resource areas and military buffer areas by providing landowners a way to continue existing land use and encourage development in more suitable areas.

Terri Pereira, associate planner with the county, said the transfer price is the difference between the value of the property as a subdivision and the value of the property as agricultural land.

Pereira said land is often more valuable as a subdivision, but by selling the development rights, it places a conservation easement on the land, keeping it for agricultural, open space, public recreation and wildlife purposes.

The minimum size parcel that can be considered is 40 acres. The land does not need water rights, but must be revegetated if it's been stripped of vegetation within six years, to comply with county dust codes.

The development rights are measured in equivalent residential units. Each sending site has those units calculated depending on size of the parcel, the base density allowable and water rights. Bonus units are given to resource protection, beneficial public uses and parcels larger than 100 acres.

According to the draft ordinance, receiving sites can accept equivalent residential units from more than one sending site.

Pereira said she knows of about six developers currently interested in purchasing development rights, but "we may find out there's more."

She said the county holds about 12 conservation easements on land. The easements have been around since the early 1900s, and are a well-recognized way to ensure land remains in agricultural usage.

Dahl said the environmental alliance was asked by concerned members of the farming community to find a way to preserve the valley's agricultural economy and lands. The result was the Ag Preservation Working Group, which has been working on an ordinance since April 2005.

The Ag Preservation Working Group meets every third Thursday of the month in the county Administration Building. It is made up of members from the agriculture industry, real estate professionals, the farm bureau, U.S. Navy, county and city officials, representatives from the conservation district, Newlands Water Protection Association, Lahontan Valley Land and Water Alliance, CCHS FFA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and "a good slice of the community," Dahl said.

If you go

What: Workshop on transfer of development rights

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Churchill County Commission Chambers, Fallon

What is 'transfer of development rights'?

The intent behind transfer of development rights is for developers to buy development rights from existing agricultural land, known as sending sites, and transfer them to areas in the northwest area of the county - known as receiving sites - where water and sewer systems are being built.

• Contact reporter Christy Lattin at


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