Residents, officials discuss growth limits

Efforts to develop growth limits in Douglas County came one small step closer to reality as county officials presented information on other growth ordinances at a special planning commission meeting Thursday.

In addition to affecting the future of growth in Douglas County, the measure could affect more than 4,500 residential lots that have been tentatively approved in Carson Valley.

Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins presented a dizzying array of options for permit allocation systems from other cities and towns with growth ordinances, including Golden, Colo., Half Moon Bay, Calif., and Boulder City.

A lottery system could allow a minimum of one building permit per applicant before rationing the rest. For example, if 250 building permits are available and 100 individuals request 300 permits, all could get one permit and the balance, 150, could be issued proportionately.

Douglas County's ordinance could include exemptions for affordable or senior housing, rehabilitation of existing housing or pre-existing lots.

The air was heavy with the smell of coffee and almost every chair was taken in a conference room at the Starbuck's Roasting Plant Thursday as county officials, candidates, developers and residents gathered to sift through the issues.

"Has the District Attorney's office made an official legal determination as to how prior-approved developments will proceed under a growth control ordinance," said John Garvin, cochair of the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee.

Perkins said ongoing litigation is hindering that effort and the county is seeking to initiate growth management through the political process rather than the judicial.

"The elephant outside the window is litigation," said Perkins. "I can't answer that definitively because we don't know what a judge will say if we have to go to trial."

Perkins was referring to the legal debate over the Sustainable Growth Initiative, which was voter-approved in 2002. After its approval, the initiative faced numerous legal challenges and is tied up in the courts. The initiative is subject to an injunction against its implementation..

Most growth ordinances make allowances for affordable housing, another issue considered by those at the meeting.

Local developer Greg Lynn said when perks are given to a builder for affordable housing, the larger developer is the most likely to benefit.

"What built this community is the indigenous builder," he said. "I'm not in a position to do this."

Commissioner Jim Baushke said he agreed with Lynn, but without a provision for affordable work-force housing, Douglas County will go the way of communities like West Palm Beach, where the caregivers live two counties away because they can't afford housing locally. Nevada has a 4 percent unemployment rate and any new business must hire workers away from someone else, Baushke said.

"We don't have high-tech jobs paying people $120,000 a year," he said. "We have to provide work-force housing or we won't have a work force."

Garvin said members of the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee take issue with larger developers that pull 100 permits or more without regard for natural resources.

"We're talking about allocations that are fair," he said. "We didn't invent the wheel. It was invented in the master plan."

Garvin was referring to the provisions for a growth cap in Douglas County's master plan, which suggests a limit between 2 and 3 percent.

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


This is the second in a series of meetings concerning formulation of a growth ordinance in Douglas County. The next meeting is scheduled for June 19, but a time and location have not been determined, according to Community Development Director Mitch Dion.


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