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Boards consider open space issues

by Christy Chalmers

Open space advocates will have their choice of developments to monitor Thursday as two groups tackle different aspects of open space preservation.

The Douglas County Commission has a meeting with Lincoln County leaders on the pending Lincoln-Douglas Exchange. The proposed exchange involves selling federal land in Lincoln County and using the proceeds to buy open space in Douglas.

Congressman Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada, has drafted a bill that would permit Lincoln County to buy the federal property at fair market value. The bill, HR 2752, calls for 5 percent of the proceeds to go to education programs in Nevada and another 10 percent dedicated to Lincoln County.

The remaining 85 percent would go into a special account to reimburse the Bureau of Land Management for preparing the sales, developing a habitat conservation plan in Lincoln County and buying conservation easements in Douglas County.

Douglas County Manager Dan Holler said Thursday’s meeting will probably result in a letter from Lincoln and Douglas leaders affirming their support for the bill, which has been referred to the House Committee on Resources.

While the County Commission is meeting in Stateline, the county planning commission will be meeting in Minden in hopes of measuring local support for open space preservation efforts.

The planning commission, which advises the county commission, has invited ranchers and other owners of undeveloped property to give their opinions on the open space proposals.

Planning commissioners decided the meeting would be prudent because they don’t want to develop a list of guidelines or criteria for the process if the landowners – whose cooperation would be crucial – aren’t interested.

As proposed, the land owners would be paid in exchange for a perpetual ban on developing their property.

Holler, who has been appointed a liaison to a private coalition that is promoting open space preservation, said the meetings could be pivotal for the entire effort.

“I think the feeling from the community group is that there’s a definite interest in looking at the concepts. I think they’re very interested in looking at the alternatives,” he said. “It can be a really positive day for the whole project.”

The county commission will meet beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the county administration building in Stateline. The planning commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the old courthouse in Minden.