County panel recommends approval of master plan update | RecordCourier.com

County panel recommends approval of master plan update

by Susie Vasquez

Revisions to Douglas County’s master plan, used to guide and manage development, were unanimously approved by the planning commission Tuesday.

The process included input from the public and various stakeholder factions over the past 18 months.

“It was a monumental task,” said Nancy McDermid, planning commission chair. “The master plan is a guide, like a map. It isn’t perfect, but neither is the (U.S.) Constitution.

“It didn’t give women the vote,” she said.

Douglas County residents presented the flaws as they saw them, including the increase of residential densities in urban service areas from five to 17 dwelling units per acre to promote infill and the development of underutilized parcels. The previous master plan recommended a maximum of six dwelling units per acre.

Density for multi-family residential units has been raised from a maximum of 12 dwelling units per acre to 25.

Douglas County resident Jim Slade said there was no real explanation for the increase and it was never discussed at any of the public master plan meetings he attended.

“At a time when growth control is the issue facing Douglas County, you should not be increasing density until a growth management is in effect,” he said.

With existing zoning and projects the potential exists for a population increase of 70,000 residents, bringing the total here to an estimated 120,000 people with no additional parceling, Slade said.

McDermid said once a growth cap is in place, it won’t matter what the densities are.

“Once we have a cap, we can entertain that discussion,” Slade said.

A 2002 voter-mandated growth cap has been subject to numerous debates and is currently being considered by county officials and residents.

Designed to help the 30-plus ranchers in Carson Valley, a new agriculture element should help maintain the agricultural element that provides viewsheds, drainage and more for residents. Provisions include the following:

• Landowners with more than 100 acres in cultivation will be able to create a 2 acre-parcel for sale once every five years. The property must be owned by the landowner for five years.

• To promote continued financial viability for ranchers, increased clustering density was approved. Density was increased from 50 to 100 percent if that development is transferred from agriculture land to forest and range.

The planning commission is advisory and the master plan will be forwarded to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for approval.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.