Two projects account for half of potential homes

Homes are under construction along Ironwood Drive in Minden.

Homes are under construction along Ironwood Drive in Minden.

Two projects account for around half the total residential units approved in Douglas County.

One, Virginia Ranch, has 1,020 units approved behind the Grant Avenue Walmart while the Buckeye Farms is listed with 2,218 units, Douglas County Planning Commissioners were told on Tuesday.

There are 2,534 units that are not subject to the county’s growth cap and another 4,038 approved since the cap’s 2007 implementation.

Virginia Ranch predates the cap, while Buckeye Farms was approved last year, which makes for a significant difference between the two, Community Development Director Tom Dallaire said.

Virginia Ranch was approved in 2004 and is not subject to Douglas County’s growth cap.

The controversial Buckeye Farms project, located north of Minden, was approved in 2020 and therefore is subject to the 2 percent permit limit.

Virginia Ranch is required to build four lanes of Muller Lane Parkway from Grant Avenue to where the road ends near Stodieck Estates as part of its approval.

Douglas County is required to build two lanes of the parkway across Buckeye Farms. On Thursday, Douglas County Commission Chairman John Engels is renewing his effort to retrieve $1.1 million the county transferred to the Regional Transportation Commission to help pay to design the parkway.

The RTC approved the expenditure and the contractor has already begun its work.

The first phase of Buckeye Farms is located off Buckeye Road and wouldn’t be served by the parkway, which is supposed to be built by the county by 2025.

Dallaire said Douglas issued 200 single-family permits and another 20 multiple-family permits during 2020.

While the growth cap approved in 2007 theoretically limits growth to 2 percent, the Great Recession slowed building to a crawl between 2008 and 2012.

According to county figures, the number of permits issued dropped from 672 in 2002 to 35 in 2010.

That left a 2,003-allocation bubble in which the county has yet to come close to making much of a dent.

Planning Manager Sam Booth said that while theoretically Virginia Ranch could pull all 1,020 of its permits at once, the project is just starting out and still has several practical issues to overcome.

“It’s highly unlikely they could do four phases in one year,” Booth said.

Those include installing infrastructure and recording maps for all four phases.

At a school board meeting on Tuesday, Dallaire pointed out that Pleasantview was approved in 2001 and that it’s just now reaching build-out.

Those projects like Virginia Ranch that predate the growth ordinance have until 2032 when they are no longer vested.

Growth was a major issue in the 2020 election with County Commissioners Walt Nowosad and Mark Gardner running on a platform to slow building.

The new board of commissioners, which took office in January represents one of the biggest transitions since at least 1996.

Over the past decade, the county has issued 1,469 single-family building permits, down from 3,987 permits during 2000-2009 and 4,809 permits in the 1990s.

Planning Commissioner Nicholas Maier, who for the report, noted that several of the projects were approved between 2017-2020, including Buckeye Farms.

Last year was also a Census year, which without the coronavirus outbreak, would provide specific population numbers for Douglas County around now.

However, reports are that Census data won’t be available for apportionment until summer.

Voter registration numbers went up 137 from December to January, according to the Douglas County Clerk-Treasurer’s Office to 42,099. Of those 2,739 are listed as inactive, which may mean they moved out of the county.



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