Change in growth ordinance must go to voters

Construction at Monte Vista and Ironwood in Minden.

Construction at Monte Vista and Ironwood in Minden.
Robin L. Sarantos | Special to The R-C


Eliminating a pool of building permits that have accumulated over the past 14 years will require a ballot question.

The recent building boom has seen the first year when builders dipped into the pool of permits that has been collecting in the years since the Great Recession.

Spurred by a big increase in home values and demand, the first five months of 2021 has seen 133 single family building permits, according to the county, compared to 200 permits issued in all of 2020.

As of last week, there are still 584 permits in the current project pool and 1,452 permits available for individuals.

The 2 percent growth cap allows 418 permits to be issued during 2021. Until this year, the county builders haven’t exceeded the number of permits available under the annual allocation. From a spreadsheet issued by the county, the pool of project permits decreased by eight this year.

County commissioners appeared to be interested in reducing the pool of permits.

County Planning Manager Sam Booth said there isn’t any rule that says a builder couldn’t pull all their permits at once, but that from a practical standpoint it was unlikely.

“There is no limit on the number of permits from the pool,” Booth said. “We issue permits from the pool first before we get to the number for the given year,” he said.

When commissioners approved the growth ordinance in 2007 and it was ratified by voters in 2008, no one anticipated that building in Carson Valley would come to a complete stop.

Under the approved ordinance, permits for projects that were already approved in 2007 would be vested.

The 2-percent growth cap established in the ordinance left lots of permits on the table in the years following the collapse.

Until 2018, the number of permits remained below the number available. That year, 140 permits for vested projects were pulled, which increased the total number of single family permits that year to 235, the highest single year total so far.

Only 154 permits were pulled in 2019 and 200 in 2020.

In their conclusion, planning staff said they believe that the approved projects ready to build will consume the project pool in the next 4-6 years based on current permit trends.

“Once the pool is used, the growth ordinance will limit projects to around 70 units per year through 2031, when the vested reduction will expire.”

Commissioner Walt Nowosad said he’d like to see the ordinance simplified so that it didn’t require an accountant to tell how many permits were available in a given year.

Commissioner Mark Gardner pointed out that an aggressive developer could pull a large number of permits from the pool, which he felt was not in the spirit of the initiative.


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