Vote 'yes' on Advisory Question No. 1

The Building Permit Allocation and Growth Management Ordinance is on the November ballot for advisory approval - this article urges you to vote for this ordinance. The board of county commissioners approved this ordinance by a 4-1 vote in June 2007 and it has been in effect since July 1, 2007. During the course of its development, members of the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee insisted that the voters be given the opportunity to express their sentiments by way of an advisory approval process since this ordinance also repeals the Sustainable Growth Initiative. The County agreed.

The development of this ordinance is the result of a collaborative effort on the part of many individuals and groups over a 16-month period partly in coordination with the 10-year master plan update process. Included in discussions were developers and real estate representatives as well as members of the SGIC. The general public also provided input. This process was overseen by county officials, including the district attorney's office who prepared the actual text.

Our master plan has long called for a building permit allocation system as part of its growth management plan to promote orderly community growth while maintaining the county's rural character. One of the ordinance's legislative findings is that: "A measure of sustained, balanced growth in Douglas County is both desirable and necessary for the continued viability of the community."

Given the state of our current economy with the housing market down, one may ask why this ordinance is needed anyway. The answer is that without this ordinance, the county would not have an important tool on hand to manage residential growth when the housing market once again takes off in its typical boom-and-bust cycle. The past is always indicative of the future. Hitching our local economy to the wagon of uncontrolled residential growth is not the answer, as we have seen.

We're all for free enterprise; however, as we have seen, sometimes the system gets out of whack. Such was the case during the recent bursting of the housing boom many of us have witnessed (as well as on the national level as to the financial market) when overbuilding of "residential rooftops" got out of hand and also caused a deficit in needed infrastructure and services such as in law enforcement, senior facilities and traffic. Some level of coordination and management of residential growth has long been needed. This ordinance " the building permit allocation and growth management ordinance " provides such a tool as long envisioned by the master plan.

What has also been needed in this county is a full time economic development director to promote and revitalize business growth on Main Street, and entice clean industries to our valley. This objective could be spearheaded by the county, in coordination with the business council and the chamber of commerce. Certainly we do not need additional big box stores in north county (financed by redevelopment money) which have siphoned existing business away from Main Street and caused the closing of many of them.

Let me highlight some of the ordinance's provisions: It provides for a 2 percent compounded growth rate which cannot be changed without going through an advisory approval process with the voters. This rate is reflective of the total number of allocations (26,812) to be made available spread out over a 50-year planning period. Projects approved, but not yet built, before July 1, 2007, do not require allocations but are "fed" from this overall total - some 4,700 units. If the total number of allocations - 26,812 - is to be increased, the county is also required to seek an advisory approval from the voters.

Unused allocations in any one year are carried over into the next " as has already been done as to the fiscal year 2007-2008. There is a provision for banking and borrowing of allocations from future years so that developers can more readily qualify for bank financing for their operations. Ranchers, long important to our valley, are cut some slack so that they can more readily build needed accessory buildings and additional dwelling units periodically. Individual lot owners are assigned their own pool of allocations each year (as determined by the board) and are not subject to direct competition with large builders to get their allocation.

No allocation is required to replace an existing dwelling unit that is destroyed by some calamity nor does the remodeling of an existing dwelling unit require one to go through an allocation process. Construction of commercial buildings is not subject to this ordinance. This ordinance only pertains to new residential dwelling units. This listing of provisions is not exhaustive by any means.

The ordinance is administered by the director of community development and has built-in checks and balances for the director's use. Appeals are directed to the board of county commissioners.

It is important that this ordinance receive advisory approval. If the ordinance is not given advisory approval, the board of county commissioners may well repeal the ordinance, leaving the citizens of this county without any means to manage the rate of residential growth in this county. Keep in mind that the ordinance represents a reasonable compromise between the diverse interests who contributed to its formation. The only reason you have it before you is that the SGIC insisted that you, the voter, participate in this process.

Please vote "Yes" on Douglas County Advisory Question 1, the Building Permit Allocation and Growth Management Ordinance.

n John H. Garvin is Co-chairman of the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee and a Minden resident


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