County adding to road burden on taxpayers
On Dec. 3, 1998, a Lyon County commissioner (since retired) proposed a bill amending county subdivision codes with the intent of putting increased burdens for related infrastructure needs on developers.
A public hearing on the bill was held on Feb. 8, 1999. Considerable public testimony was given in support of the recommended changes, including comments by the county Community Development director, who said “I hope it is approved and you stick to it and don’t give waivers.”
I assumed, since no one (not even one developer) was present to oppose the changes, a vote of approval would be given. Wrong! (I now assume that developers had been told not to worry about attending, it would not pass!)
Commissioners, caught off guard by the overwhelming support for the recommended changes, chose not to vote on the proposal that day and continued the hearing to the next month. With a number of well-prepared developers present at this second hearing, and minus those who had spoken in support of the bill a month earlier, (proponents of the suggested changes were told they need not attend) commissioners unanimously vetoed the proposed changes and directed staff to set up a committee to review the current ordinance.
Well, it has now been a year since the issue was introduced and no new recommendations have been brought forward. While subdivision after subdivision is being approved, the county continues to drag its feet. And while commissioners proudly espouse a new road policy that they hope will allow many of the existing non-maintained roads into the maintained system (at taxpayer expense), they continue to promulgate the situation by refusing to take decisive and immediate action on proposals that would begin putting the responsibility where it truly belongs.
Oh yes, among the suggested changes that could have been approved in February was to put the burden on the developer to improve adjacent local and collector streets affected by a new subdivision.
How many subdivisions have been approved since February that will now be putting additional burdens on adjacent county roads – both maintained and non-maintained? How many adjacent roads now need upgrading because of this increased traffic? Guess who will pay for those improvements!
If they are serious about getting the road situation in this county straightened out, it is time for our county commissioners to face the music, even if they don’t like the tune they will hear the developers singing.
On Dec. 16, commissioners, once again, overturned the wishes of the Fernley Town Board and county Planning Commission when they approved a master plan and zone change request to change 32 acres of the Rakewheel Ranch off Cottonwood Lane in Fernley from medium density to high density residential.
While noting that he did not take amending the master plan lightly, one commissioner rightly pointed out, however, the board had previously approved the high density zoning of the surrounding properties and it would be unfair to say no to a similar request from these property owners. He said he couldn’t understand why the planning commission denied this application.
The owners of the Rakewheel property had a right to wonder also, and if I were in their shoes I would have made the same request.
Each keeping a straight face as they spoke in agreement, particularly of their desire to maintain the integrity of the master plan, perhaps board members had forgotten that when they created the high density zoning on two of the three adjacent properties they had amended the master plan and overturned the wishes of the Fernley Town Board and Planning Commission! Let this be a lesson to those who may wonder how master plans get turned into worthless pieces of paper.
Though certainly not without flaws, Lyon County has a viable master plan. It was nice to hear this commission finally acknowledge it, particularly with their past record of time and again approving subdivision after subdivision over the wishes of local town boards and the planning commission, using the logic that they simply had no viable master plan to guide them!
No wonder Fernley residents can hardly wait to incorporate and become a self-governing city!
(The ever expanding master plan update efforts in the Fernley and Dayton areas, and the money being poured into them, is a subject for another day.)
Housing is needed if industry is to come to Lyon County. Fernley is in desperate need of employee housing. This does not mean, however, that developers should be calling all the shots, no questions asked.
Developers are businessmen. They need not be looked at as evil predators. However, somewhere along the line, the burden of paying for the impacts upon our streets, parks, emergency services must shift from the taxpayer to those profiting from this growth.
It is the responsibility of our governing officials to put it there.
Think about it.
Nancy Dallas spent 11 years in Lyon County government, four as county commissioner and seven as planning commissioner.