Douglas to debate growth cap

Creation of the hotly debated growth cap in Douglas County will be considered at a joint meeting of the Douglas County commissioners and planning commission at 6 tonight at the CVIC Hall in Minden.

Two, 2.5 percent, 3 percent and 3.5 percent caps on residential building permits, in addition to a flat rate of 280 permits a year as approved by Douglas County voters in 2002 are being considered.

Voters approved the Sustainable Growth Initiative, which limits the number of housing permits issued in Douglas County to 280 a year, in November 2002. A series of court rulings and legal wrangling followed.

The meeting follows the release of a report by Meridian Business Advisors advocating a flexible cap to "protect the economic viability and quality of life Douglas County now enjoys."

The Meridian report, which states that growth pays for itself and is necessary for the generation of adequate tax revenues, was funded by the Coalition for Smart Growth.

The 280-permit cap, which represents a growth rate of about 2 percent, would require up to $124 million worth of new taxes or service cuts.

A growth cap limiting the number of new homes to 2.5 percent annually would reduce that need by up to $33 million and a 3.5 percent growth cap would reduced that need by $55 million, according to the Meridian report.

Douglas County resident and retired urban planner Terry Burnes, who favors the 2 percent/280-cap limit, said the type of community people in Douglas want shouldn't be sacrificed for some elusive fiscal benefit that never seems to materialize.

Historically, growth has not paid for itself in Douglas County, despite any self-serving arguments the development community might present to the contrary, he said.

"Ten years of uncontrolled growth since the adoption of the master plan has given Douglas County ample opportunity to demonstrate that growth pays. But it hasn't," he said. "We find the county still bemoaning insufficient revenue to cover needed expenses. The plain truth is that we're overbuilding here and ruining what most of us value about Douglas County. The only ones benefiting from that are a handful of builders and developers, their associates and a few landowners."

Douglas County resident David Nelson said the 280-home cap was approved by the voters in 2002. Any studies, including water studies or fiscal analysis, are irrelevant.

"I doesn't matter if growth pays for itself or not," Nelson said. "The voters spoke and county government has ignored the results."

Commissioners are expected to discuss the issue and provide direction to staff today.

• Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.

If you go

WHAT: Joint meeting of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and Planning Commission

WHEN: 6 tonight

WHERE: CVIC Hall, 1602 Esmeralda Ave., Minden

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