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Commission creates first redevelopment area

by Sharon Carter

In the wake of Douglas County’s decision Thursday night to create the county’s first-ever redevelopment project area, school district officials said they will take steps to ensure their source of operating funds are safe from future plundering.

“We feel this was not a good thing for the school district,” schools superintendent Pendery Clark said Friday. “We’re open to discussion with the county on ways to mitigate the negative impacts on us, but we are also looking forward to the upcoming legislative session to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen.”

Clark’s concern is that if Redevelopment Project Area 1 is successful, the county will create more redevelopment districts – beginning with sections of Stateline and downtown Gardnerville – and skim off more of the property tax growth increment schools rely upon to keep up with rising operating expenses.

On the plus side. At the meeting, County Manager Dan Holler assured Clark and members of the school board that losses to district schools could likely be made up for by increases gained in development activities outside the project area.

“What it will drive outside the redevelopment area will determine the impact to the school district,” Holler said. “If we’re successful, the district could be better off with it (redevelopment) than without it.”

Several people who attended the six-hour meeting spoke in favor of redevelopment in addition to the detractors..

Lex Adams, who represented the Walley’s Hot Springs development which plans 150 time-share condominiums and several ancillary services, indicated his company was prepared to donate the nearly $300,000 they had earmarked to build their package septic system to help build a regional sewer system trunk line.

“Sinking wells and putting in septic sewer systems is not acceptable in Douglas County anymore, for long-term environmental and long-term economic reasons,” Adams said.

What, where and how much? Project Area 1 is a chain of six isolated tracts which includes the proposed commercial area at the Carson City border, Ridgeview Estates and portions of Genoa and the Walley’s Hot Springs, Genoa Lakes and Little Mondeaux developments.

All are areas which require infrastructure improvements, particularly regional water and sewer systems. Those improvements, as well as others to rectify drainage, road design and access deficiencies, are expected to encourage private investment in the north commercial area, reducing losses of the county’s sales tax dollars to Carson City and Reno.

Correcting some of what Public Works Director Bob Nunes termed “the county’s screw-ups of the past,” is likely to cost more than the $30 million county planners hope redevelopment will reap over its 30-year duration.

County planners said redevelopment money sources could be complemented with a combination of different funding sources, including developer contributions and state and federal project moneys and grants.

And if the big money commercial interests county officials hope to attract to the North County give it the cold shoulder?

“Then it dies,” Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen said Friday. “We won’t go forward with redevelopment if some big players don’t also come forward to partner with us.”

The vote. After listening to the concerns of school officials and residents who feared the county was moving too fast, the five-member board of county commissioners unanimously approved the Douglas County Redevelopment Plan and created the first redevelopment area.

Commissioner Steve Weissinger said he felt redevelopment was one tool in the county’s tool box.

“This protects the water in Douglas County, which is a top priority along with the schools,” Weissinger said.

Commissioner Don Miner said the move will help to fix history to allow for growth.

“If we did’t have the history, development could pay its own way as it should,” Miner said.

Commissioner Bernie Curtis said he felt redevelopment was the way to fix some of the most expensive needs in the county for those who could least afford the expense.

“We promised to try to fix things when we took this job, if we don’t try for solutions nothing gets solved,” Curtis said.

Commissioner Kelly Kite said the county had kept residents informed throughout the year the concept was being considered.

“I think this is the way to go. It’s our opportunity to do something with our own destiny,” Kite said.

And commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen, who said he came to the meeting with questions, felt many had been answered.

“I’ve always found it somewhat humiliating that a good, conservative Republican county would be on the state sales tax dole,” Etchegoyhen said. “I’m hoping this improves it. I also think there’s got to be a way to reduce impacts to the school district – a way to mix and match our needs.”

Future directions. School Superintendent Clark said that while the district was supportive of what was good for the county, its first duty was to its students.

“We haven’t seen any of the numbers from the county,” Clark said. “We cannot (simply) accept those assumptions, we need to see the figures and do a hard analysis.

“They said they’re taking properties with low values and working to improve them, but they also said that in order to make the programs work, they have to include higher-valued properties in the project areas. That has us worried.”

Holler said Friday he had given school officials copies of the county’s most recent calculations and planned to meet with them in the future.

“We’ve been figuring out ways to help the school district and other agencies affected (by loss of future tax increment), like the Indian Hills General Improvement District, in the future,” Holler said.

“Even if we can’t agree completely on redevelopment, we still have many common issues and more things we can work on together,” he said. “We can’t agree on all issues, nor should we. Our focuses are different.”

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