Minden board endorses Park Ranch

MINDEN - The much-debated Park Ranch project squeaked by the Minden Town Board on Wednesday, one day after Gardnerville officials voted to turn down the development that would more than double the size of the towns at buildout in 40-50 years.

Town board members Bob Hadfield, Ross Chichester and Bruce Jacobsen voted in favor of the master plan request while Chairman Ray Wilson and Dave Sheets voted to deny the plan.

The project is scheduled for a two-day hearing Tuesday and Wednesday before the Douglas County Planning Commission.

"I think you've got to be bold and dynamic," Hadfield said. "I think this plan has some very important positive elements worth taking chances on."

He said the project would give Douglas County a rare opportunity to keep agricultural land irrigated.

"It would be a terrible mistake to turn our backs on an opportunity to master plan this many acres in this valley," Hadfield said.

The project covers 4,500 acres of Park Cattle Co. property east and west of the current Minden boundaries.

At buildout, the Park Ranch would add 4,900 new homes primarily between the towns of Minden and Gardnerville.

The development would include public facilities, light industrial, mixed-use commercial, business parks, schools, Western Nevada College facilities, open space, parks, recreation and well sites and residential lots.

Rob Anderson, representing the Park Ranch, said the project would mean 7,000 permanent jobs, 15,000 residual jobs, $125 million annually in taxes to Douglas County, $125 million in one-time fees, $1.8 million annually in Minden taxes and $62 million to Minden for water.

Town engineer Bruce Scott recommended the advisory board deny the master plan request, citing the inventory of available lots and houses in the community and calling the project premature.

He asked for a "much more in-depth, deliberate and interactive approach" with Minden and Gardnerville, and Douglas County, including fiscal impacts and analysis of traffic, drainage, infrastructure and maintenance.

In voting to deny the request, Wilson said he didn't have enough information.

"I don't have the expertise to approve your plan," Wilson said. "I know what I know and I know my limitation. I agree with our engineer, it's premature."

Jacobsen, a Minden native, said if he could, he would turn the clock back 50 years.

"But this project gives us the opportunity to look to the future of this valley," he said. "My concern for future (town) boards far outweighs the negatives. I think this project can be managed properly for the town of Minden and Douglas County."

John Garvin, co-chairman of the Sustainable Growth Committee, said the project was unmanageable in size and scope.

"Over the 40 years of the project, the nature of the Carson Valley will change, most of us think for the worse," Garvin said. "I question the motivation, whether they're going to be sticking around to oversee fruition of this project. Once they're granted the master plan amendment, the receiving area will increase the value. There is nothing to prevent the sale of this property in bits and pieces."

Gary Williams, a member of the Sierra Nevada Community Land Trust, said his organization supported the Park project effort to include affordable housing.

"We're very impressed that Park Cattle is aware of the needs. We've been working for two years to provide affordable, work-force housing so our children can live here. We support that component of the project. It's greatly needed to keep the community viable and alive," Williams said.

Park Cattle chairman Brad Nelson said if the project wins a master plan amendment, construction could begin as early as 2011.

He estimated 80-90 percent of the builders on the project would be local, with the rest regional or national.


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