County denies Jobs Peak expansion
Citing concerns about everything from nitrate seepage into the groundwater to the viewshed, Douglas County commissioners denied a proposed 26-home expansion in Jobs Peak Ranch.
The vote was 3-2, with Tim Smith, Doug Johnson and Jim Baushke opposed to the expansion. Commissioners Kelly Kite and David Brady voted in favor.
A portion of the controversy swirled around a letter submitted by the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection in November, which stated the maximum density for the area had been met. High groundwater levels preclude the location for the septic leachfield sites and the special denitrifying systems must be properly monitored.
“That will require annual certification. Who will do it? The state, the county or the private owner?” Baushke said. “I’m not at all convinced that the nitrate problem is solved or the water supply system is under control. There’s also the whole idea of the county’s liability if something should go wrong.
“We need more scientific evidence and we need to talk more about these systems,” he said. “I’m not comfortable trying to approve this today.”
Speaking for developers Five Creek LLC, attorney Scott Brooke said the company opted for the special denitrifying systems to prevent any nitrate problems.
“We also required a deed restriction and the CC&Rs to make sure they were monitored. Documents have been prepared and recorded and they bind that property,” Brooke said. “It provides authority for the homeowner’s association to ensure inspection and maintenance of these systems, and also provides the authority for the county.”
Developers have expended a lot of effort to curb fire hazards in the area and are cooperating with county officials to locate a new water tank on the Jobs Peak property for service extending beyond the development’s 122 approved lots, Brooke said.
“As Douglas County moves forward with improvement plans, water service will change and this is a key component,” he said.
One of the provisos for initial approval of the project included preserving a portion of the 1,080-acre development for open space. Developer Cole Smith nodded his head in affirmation when commissioners asked for assurances that no more homes be built in the upscale neighborhood.
Commissioner Johnson said this project was contested at its inception in 1996. At that time, one of the conditions of approval included Smith’s promise to keep the homes in the trees and out of sight, but the homes in this new expansion would be clearly visible.
“If this expansion had been requested originally, the project may not have been approved,” Johnson said. “Eight years later you come back asking for more and that puts us in an awkward situation. You tell the public one thing and then come back later to expand the project. I have a problem with that.”
The expansion also drew opposition from residents, primarily those directly below the high-end development, located on the alluvial fan at the base of Jobs Peak, just west of Foothill Road in the Carson Valley.
Resident Peg Quinlan, a registered environment health specialist, said drainage from Five Creek Road, together with the nitrates, end up on her property.
“The major issue for failure of denitrification systems is the owner,” she said. “If they don’t want to pay for the electricity to have them running, they turn them off and the tank works like a regular septic system. Then people down the hill end up drinking the nitrates.”
The risk of nitrate toxicity is greatest in infants under four months of age, and can be responsible for a potentially fatal condition known as methemoglobinemia, according to an article in American Family Physician.
Quinlan said Nevada law states owners must give permission for changes in any subdivision.
“This expansion benefits the developer. It increases his cash flow, as well of that of the engineer and to an extent, the county,” she said. “But it’s very detrimental to surrounding neighbors.”
— Susie Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 211.