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Commissioners overturn planning decisions

by Christy Chalmers

The Douglas County Commission overruled a pair of recommendations by the planning commission, deciding the advisory board was too permissive with one request and too strict with the other.

The requests, considered Thursday, involved master plan and zoning changes for 30 acres south of Lampe Park in Gardnerville and the 3-acre site occupied by the defunct Tree House Nursery in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

The planning commission had recommended changing the master plan designation for 22.87 of the 30 acres near Lampe from agricultural to community facilities. The rest of the land, 7.68 acres along Highway 395 south of the Lampe Corners project, would have been zoned for commercial use.

Project developer Roger Falcke suggested the 22 acres could be used to expand Lampe Park, and he said the commercial project would include rerouting Cottonwood Slough to increase flood control and diminish the risk to the stores.

Though three of the five commissioners voted for Falcke’s request, the request failed because master plan amendments require a super majority – at least four of five votes – to pass. Commissioners Bernie Curtis and Jacques Etchegoyhen, who cast the opposing votes, said they could not overlook the land’s location in a flood plain.

“If we need the 22 acres for Lampe Park, we should be straightforward and buy it,” said Etchegoyhen. “We shouldn’t be doing this through the master plan amendment process.”

“I don’t think we need to continue to make mistakes in the flood plain,” said Curtis. “I can’t see squeezing the river down in its floodways, which creates a higher (flood) elevation downstream.”

Concerns about flooding have ended earlier bids to develop the land, including a 1998 proposal for a hotel-casino, bowling alley and RV park complex.

The commission sided with the applicant on the Tree House zone change. The owner, Bently Family Limited Partneship, wanted to change the master plan designation from agriculture to commercial use, and sought a zone change that would allow neighborhood commercial uses, such as small shops. The nursery is at the corner of Dresslerville and Centerville roads.

Several Gardnerville Ranchos residents, and the Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District board, opposed neighbhorhood commercial because that category includes convenience stores and gas stations, and they were concerned a gas leak could jeapordize a nearby well that serves the Ranchos.

The planning commission responded by recommending a change to office-commercial use, which would prohibit a gas station or convenience store.

Bently’s attorney, Bill Shaw, told the county commission adjacent land has already been zoned for offices.

“I want to assure you you are going to see nothing but weeds for the next 20 years if you put offices there,” said Shaw. “Office-commercial is a fairly vain act because there’s negative demand.”

Shaw also said Bently doesn’t want to turn the land into a gas station and is willing to put a restriction on the property so future owners can’t, either.

The county commissioners said a neighborhood commercial designation would be more beneficial to the area than offices.

“There are some uses under neighborhood-commercial that I think are more complimentary to this neighborhood than office-commercial,” said Etchegoyhen.

The master plan amendment was approved unanimously. Commissioner Steve Weissinger, who represents the Gardnerville Ranchos, opposed the zone change to neighborhood commercial, making the vote 4-1.

The action drew subsequent criticism from Gardnerville Ranchos resident Robert Havranek, who accused the commission of denying the community adequate notice by granting the neighborhood commercial designation. Havranek said he expected the commission to act on the planning commission’s recommendation for office commercial and considers the decision a breach of public disclosure rules.