Planning commission rejects Minden casino

MINDEN - An amendment to Douglas County's master plan that would help pave the way for a possible hotel, casino and recreation complex in Minden was rejected by the Douglas County Planning Commission on Tuesday.

In a 5-to-1 decision, commissioners expressed concern when the developer, Nevada Northwest LLC, decided to ask for the master plan amendment separately from the overall specific plan and zoning change, which included plans for the hotel and casino.

Tuesday's decision follows a decision by the Minden Town Board two weeks ago to reject zoning and master plan changes proposed by Nevada Northwest LLC. Both entities are policy advisory boards to the Douglas County Commission, which will hear the proposal next month.

The proposed site is located near the junction of HighwayS 395 and 88, on the west side of the Winhaven subdivision, east of Highway 395, south of Muller Lane and north of Lucerne Drive.

For nearly three hours, commissioners heard testimony from residents for and against the proposal and from Rob Anderson of Anderson Engineering, who is representing Nevada Northwest LLC.

Commissioners said they don't necessarily reject a master plan amendment, but would rather have all the pieces in place, including zoning changes, before making critical decisions.

"We're making a leap of faith and I'm tired of making the leap of faith. I want to see the whole picture and take the opportunity to plan the whole area," said commissioner Michael Hayes.

Commission Chairman Jay Lather said that because the development is large in magnitude, the proposal shouldn't be piece-mealed.

"When something like this affects so many people, it warrants all of the plans, one at a time," Lather said.

Commission Rick Gardner, who voted for the master plan amendment, said the proposal is sound and in-step with how the north end of Minden should be developed.

"It would be a shame to forgo the opportunity," Gardner said.

Anderson rejected the notion the plan is being piece-mealed. He said his clients decided to ask for a continuance with the zoning change so they can meet with residents and the Minden Plan for Prosperity group, which has in the past, tackled growth issues in central Minden.

The Minden Plan for Prosperity group met on Monday to discuss the future of north Minden, which up until word that a casino may be built there, had not seriously addressed the area or drawn specific details of how it wants to see it developed.

Many of the planning commissioners said they realize that under current zoning, the area is prime for "strip-mall" and "big box" development, and apartment buildings.

Anderson argued what's being proposed allows one owner to develop the property, in which the overall plan for the hotel, casino and housing complex addresses traffic concerns that would alleviate congestion rather than contributing to it as strip malls do.

"Today is not a political issue but a planning issue," Anderson told commissioners. "It makes sense because you have an opportunity to plan a whole block and avoid strip commercial development, that, in my opinion, plagues the Minden and Gardnerville corridor."

A master plan amendment would take the entire 177 acres of land and give it land use designation specifically for commercial development. While much of the property is zoned for commercial development, some rests in areas designated as receiving area, agricultural and multi-family residential.

Residents of nearby Winhaven subdivision have spoke out against the project, as have some who are concerned that a casino would be built close to Douglas High School.

Suzy Stockdale, a Minden resident, said going forward with the master plan amendment without the specific plan is not appropriate.

"The baby has a head and a body and I cannot separate the two," Stockdale said. "Because this is not a complete plan, I am nervous about it. Nervous about the next step."

Winhaven resident John Smith referred to the proposed casino as an "elephant" that would sit too close to a school.

"I'm concerned that the first step toward the elephant is removing zoning (land designation). I'm very concerned as to the proximity of the elephant to church property and the high school."

A letter read on behalf of the Winhaven Homeowners Association said the proposed development would change the "quality of life" that now exists for homeowners. Many of whom said they bought their property not thinking that a casino would be built next to it.

Minden resident John Garvin told commissioners the right thing to do is to wait until the Minden Plan for Prosperity has addressed how they want the area developed.

"You should leave the master plan in place until the specific plan comes forward and a decision should be done after the Minden group submits its proposal for what it wants done with receiving, commercial, industrial and residential areas," Garvin said.

The project did get some support.

Lee Rathbun, a Minden business owner, said a master plan change would allow for the county to take better control of traffic and parking issues by setting conditions on the development.

"From a planning perspective, it is of the highest and best use for the property," Rathbun said.

Carson Valley resident Renee Mack said the developer is committed to a sound project, has ties to the valley and is not "here to rape and plunder and leave" the area.

"If you put this whole block together, you can control the whole thing," Mack said.


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