Growth initiative approval could affect ranchers

Minden rancher Renee Mack said if the Sustainable Growth Initiative is implemented, the transfer development rights program will be seriously affected.

Transfer development rights preserve environmentally sensitive lands by trading the right to develop those lands for development rights in more urbanized areas.

"It puts a hole right through the program. No developer is going to buy land if they can't build on it," she said. "This thing has so many sides to it. I agree that a lot of housing has gone up in recent years, but this is a little terrifying."

At the same time, Indian lands in Douglas County will not be subject to the 280-home limit imposed by the initiative. Development there could increase dramatically, Mack said.

The Mack Ranch was being considered for a conservation easement through Terra Firma, but the initiative could halt those plans if land values drop, Mack said.

She has Minden-Gardnerville Sanitation District easements for a sewer line should she decide to develop a portion of their land. If the Initiative is approved, Mack feels that option has been knocked out from under her.

"If SGI goes through, I don't know if the county will give us any improvements," she said. "We haven't developed that land because we love ranching. But now, if hard times hit and a flood takes my producing land out, where do I go?

"Ranchers won't be able to peel off 20 acres of land and sell it for estate taxes," she said. "I'm going to ask the SGI committee if they'll send over a check."

Bob Hadfield, a member of the Minden Town Board, said some agreement will be needed for developers with approved subdivisions, especially those in receiving areas where infrastructure improvements have been built.

"That needs to be resolved, A lot of approved smaller developments and some larger developments are in various stages," Hadfield said. "A 280-home limit is a sizable number of homes, but the initiative unleashes a series of issues."

County officials were depending on revenues from sewer and water hookups to repay the bonded indebtedness for infrastructure improvements, but without those hookups the responsibility could fall on local taxpayers, Hadfield said.

The master plan includes 5-million gallon water tanks on both the north and east sides of the Carson Valley, Hadfield said.

"We could finance the improvements through reasonable sales of water rights, but who will need the water from us if they can't build?" he said.

"It's very critical that the parties involved in providing water for the residential and commercial growth in Carson Valley come together with SGI representatives to make sure there's a consensus and plan to move forward," Hadfield said. "Hopefully the discussions will lead to a suitable plan to satisfy their concerns and allow municipal entities to meet their needs in terms of their master plan in the context of funding already committed and approved."

The issue came to a head last week after the Nevada Supreme Court reversed a decision by Douglas County District Judge Michael Gibbons, who ruled against the voter-approved cap on building permits, saying the initiative was not consistent with Douglas County's master plan.

"Douglas County residents were concerned with maintaining, conserving, preserving and protecting their way of life and, as such, the majority of Douglas County residents voted to keep the rural character of their community," wrote Chief Justice Bob Rose in the majority Supreme Court decision.

The 3-2 vote remanded the debate back to Gibbons' courtroom for further proceedings.

"Although we are disappointed by the decision to overturn the District Court's ruling, we look forward to working through the process to ensure that property rights are honored and maintained," said Joanne Levy, President of Nevada Association of Realtors.

n Susie Vasquez can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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