Historic district rule revision advances

The Genoa Historic District was bustling on Saturday for the annual community yard sale.

The Genoa Historic District was bustling on Saturday for the annual community yard sale.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

It has been 28 years since Genoans argued they were shut out of the design review process, and testimony before planning commissioners on a revision to the ordinance governing Genoa Historic District Commission sounded fairly familiar.

On Tuesday, planning commissioners approved revisions to the ordinance, despite expressing sympathy for the elected town board.

Unlike Minden and Gardnerville, Genoa doesn’t have the authority to conduct design review. Unlike the larger towns, it doesn’t have an engineer on staff who would be qualified to conduct design review.

The district commission has reviewed commercial projects in Nevada’s oldest town since 1974 when the historic district was approved.

The overlay affects any commercially zoned or public facilities lots in the town.

In 1991, the commission started using the Brown Book, which was named for the color of its cover, to determine what was appropriate, before issuing a certificate of appropriateness.

Four years later, county commissioners modified the code to kick the three-member elected Genoa Town Board off the historic commission.

According to an R-C story appearing May 21, 1995, Town Board Chairman Don Rightmire and former board member Ron Funk argued against the action.

“Without local control, this ordinance would disenfranchise the people of Genoa,” Funk said at the time.

That sentiment was echoed on Tuesday by lifelong resident Bill Brooks.

One of the key issues for commissioners in 1995 was finding sufficient members to serve on the commission which met jointly with the town board.

On Tuesday, planning commissioners pointed out that the revision of the ordinance will bypass the town board on its way to the county commission for approval.

Something similar was happening to the historic commission where applicants would receive a building permit without getting a certificate of appropriateness first.

Town Manager David Qualls said he obtained a permit for work on the town church without realizing he was supposed to go through the historic commission.

“I submitted the building permit before I knew I was required to get a certificate of appropriateness,” he said. “It occurs to me I have to go back for a certificate to repair the fence in the park.”

Planner Andrea Pawling said work has been underway for two years to update the code.

One of the inciting incidents was the painting of a town business without approval from the commission.

Under the new code, those seeking a building permit would fill out a form with Community Development, who would then contact the historic district so it could conduct a hearing. Currently, that process requires an applicant to contact the commission chairman to obtain a hearing.

The district commission falls under the Nevada open meeting law, and there is currently a complaint about the commission pending with the Attorney General’s Office. The ordinance is scheduled to be introduced at the county commission meeting on July 20 with a hearing on Aug. 17.

Genoa went from a three-member board to five members in January 1999, according to a story appearing in The Record-Courier.


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