Local decisions with regional implications
November 14, 2002
We aren’t usually big worriers, but we find ourselves bothered these days about a whole list of things we think ought to be on the minds of those of us who care about our communities. Among them:
– The slow growth initiative in Douglas County. It’s interesting to watch a conservative community put the brakes on the free market. We’ve said earlier we wish the state high court would clarify the initiative process, but that doesn’t mean that this particular initiative solves more problems than it creates. We think a community ought to be responsible for providing housing for people at all levels of income. We worry that Douglas County is destined to be an enclave for the rich.
– Douglas County has done a masterful job recruiting new retailers, yet we’ve seen nothing to indicate that the majority care about where to house the people working in those new retail stores. Apartments and mobile homes are great solutions for more affordable or entry level housing. Dense housing of small homes is also less expensive to build and can be a good solution. We worry that builders will be unable to secure enough building permits to tackle these kinds of projects. People need to worry about where their gardener and store clerk and waiter live.
– Carson City officials really “get” it. They are actively working on retail retention and recruitment. They worry that if they aren’t successful, Carson City becomes retail poor and the affordable housing solution for Douglas. The strategic planning process has produced some excellent solutions to many problems, but these things take time. Unfortunately, it seems retailers moving to the area are making fast decisions and Carson officials may be stretched too thin to solve the retail space problem and work on the rest of the strategic plan. We’re particularly worried about our ability to create more well-paying manufacturing jobs. Carson’s building cap has some interesting solutions for apartments and mobile home parks that Douglas County should consider.
– If this isn’t enough hand wringing, think about where all this market manipulation lands us. Dayton. On the surface, Dayton doesn’t seem like a great place for huge housing growth. It’s far from job and retail centers. What it does have is a willingness to grow and some progressive people worrying about infrastructure, schools, parks, water and other things growing communities need to worry about. That willingness to grow fast and include plans for more affordable housing is what sets it apart from the others. The worry we have here as that the growth constraints on the market elsewhere may put more pressure on Dayton than it can handle.
All this worrying has made us realize that decisions made in one place have a direct impact on another place. We think Douglas ought not to consider somewhere else its affordable housing solution. We think Carson ought to continue to fight for retail development as well as more affordable housing. We think Dayton ought not ignore retail and jobs development as part of its planning.