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Commission candidates debate growth

New construction along the western boundary of Alpine View overlooks the fields of John Ascuaga's Jacks Valley Ranch.
Kurt Hildebrad

One of the burning questions in Douglas County is just how many people are here.

According to the U.S. Census, which wraps up its decennial count on Wednesday, 67.9 percent of its residents self-responded to the Census. The rest of the population was counted by Census takers. Douglas came in fifth in the state for self-response.

On Wednesday night, Douglas County commissioner candidates Mark Gardner and Charles Holt shared their vision on growth at a town hall debate sponsored by The Record-Courier, the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe chambers of commerce and the Business Council of Douglas County.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the debate was conducted virtually and is available for viewing at http://www.ngbndc.tv/live-streaming/virtual-town-hall-debate/

Gardner questioned an analysis by the University of Nevada Center for Economic Development that estimated the county’s 2038 population would be 50,131, an increase of 1,061 over the next 18 years.

That figure came out as part of preparation for completion of the text update to the Douglas County Master Plan, which is expected to go before commissioners by the end of the year.

The plan’s maps were approved by commissioners last year, including the movement of 1,044 acres of receiving area from land owned by Park Cattle Holdings across from Topaz Ranch Estates to property north of Minden and Gardnerville in exchange for the right-of-way for Muller Lane Parkway.

On Wednesday, Gardner said that Douglas County didn’t receive a $20 million federal grant sought for construction of the parkway.

Gardner was one of the originators of a failed petition to overturn a development agreement with the Park family.

“There are 7,000 homes approved to be built here,” he said. “I’ve never been a great mathematician, but that’s seven homes for every man woman and child.”

The Topaz Ranch Estates Republican acknowledged that if property is properly zoned there isn’t much the commission can do.

“If it meets all the criteria, I don’t know that the commission has much discretion,” he said. “If that developer brought forward variances, then we can take a look at that.”

Holt, a Ruhenstroth Libertarian, said that unless something has changed about the property, the county should approve projects.

“I’m a firm believer in the property rights of individuals,” he said. “If the property is in an area that the master plan has designated for a certain kind of construction, common sense said you should OK it without too much discussion.”

Holt said he’s read through the master plan and that it was a slog.

“It’s just a difficult thing to get through,” he said. “It’s not clear to the average person reading it.”

He said the plan should be a guide to residents on how and what development has been approved.

“But we should try to follow it as much as possible,” he said.

Gardner said that he felt county commissioners came to meetings with a predetermined decision and didn’t consider public comment.

“I can promise you I will make every attempt to do that as county commissioner in District 3,” he said. “Regarding the issues that come before us, I will apply three tests. I will use my brain to see if it makes sense, trust my gut and thirdly I will have a great deal of trust in what is true to my beliefs.”

Holt said he is looking at the commissioner’s position as community service.

“I want to look out for everyone in this county,” he said. “I want to plant trees I’ll never see grow. I want to see a county with a diverse population. We’re already averaging older than 50. Soon there won’t be enough people to make your coffee or serve your dinner at the restaurant.”