Commission repeals controversial hillside ordinance |

Commission repeals controversial hillside ordinance

Sheila Gardner

Douglas County commissioners began tinkering with the master plan Thursday, ordering the repeal of controversial regulations for hillside development and granting several changes in zoning map revisions.

More than 150 property owners overflowed commission chambers and spilled out into the hallway to hear the board – the majority of whom did not sit on the panel when the hillside overlay was passed last November – begin the repeal process.

“This is the first time in 18 years I can say I’m optimistic about what’s going to happen in Douglas County,” said Vic Buron of Wellington. “Granted, we need control. Not everyone is honorable. Not everyone is going to take care of their neighbors, but this is the first repeal we’ve had of anything in 20 years.”

Commissioners set a workshop for 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, at the CVIC Hall to discuss what will replace the hillside overlay. The ordinance introduced Thursday sets standards for hillside grading and streets. The new version is applied through the review of a development application, grading and building plans as well as through applications for the division of land. It does not require any additional permits for review.

All legal existing parcels are exempt from the hillside grading standards. The standards will only apply to new residential subdivisions of land. Provisions limiting grading based on slope percentages have been eliminated.

“The hillside ordinance as I read it is too restrictive,” said commissioner Kelly Kite, who was not a board member when the ordinance was passed last November. “But on the other side, water did a lot of damage. People have springs they haven’t seen in 10 or 12 years. Our purpose is to find a medium ground. We will not everyone of us agree on what’s right, but my intention is to protect homeowners, the people downstream.”

The hillside conservation overlay zone which is being repealed applied to all land within the county, but outside the Tahoe Basin with slopes of 15 percent or greater. Its purpose was to promote the health, safety and welfare of the county by establishing standards for hillside and mountainous areas.

With the hillside ordinance on its way out, commissioners spent two hours listening to residents with concerns about their new zoning map designation. The zoning maps implement the development code and the land use plan in the master plan adopted last year.

Nearly 20,000 notices were sent to Douglas County property owners advising them of the changes.

After listening to several comments from residents in the so-called “Orchard Road corridor,” the board set a public hearing for March 6 at 4 p.m at the CVIC Hall. That will be followed at 6 p.m. with residents’ comments from the remainder of the community plans which were continued Thursday.

Commissioners are set to hear comments on Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at commission chambers on the commercial, industrial and other non-agricultural and non-residential zoning districts.