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Developer woos residents

by Sharon Carter

As Bob Lomas had hoped, a little courtesy and consideration of their needs went a long way toward winning Elges Lane residents’ collective good opinion.

Lomas, the developer of several affordable housing projects proposed for the south Gardnerville neighborhood, approached the residents with his ideas at the Gardnerville Town Board meeting Thursday night.

Head of the Affordable Housing Group, Inc., of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Lomas told a handful of Elges residents, the board and half a dozen other observers that he began researching the Carson Valley and its housing needs about four years ago with the help of Garry Leiss of Myers Realty.

Lomas eventually bought 58 acres in the master plan-designated receiving zone which abuts Elges. He then sold a five-acre parcel to Picerne Development, a national affordable housing group which has offices in Las Vegas. Picerne planned to build Crestmore Village Apartments, a 40-unit affordable housing complex at the site.

Elges residents had opposed Crestmore, saying it would increase traffic on Elges, ruin their views and lower their property values by making them an island of single family residences in a sea of apartments. Other concerns raised included potential overcrowding at Gardnerville Elementary School and the possible attraction of bad elements to the neighborhood.

Although the county planning commission had initially approved Crestmore, Gardnerville officials sided with the residents and recommended that the county deny the project. Douglas County commissioners then denied a required zoning overlay for the project, citing master plan considerations. Crestmore is currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by Picerne against the county.

Profiting from Picerne’s misstep of not including the residents in the company’s plans for their neighborhood and addressing their concerns, Lomas contacted the Town of Gardnerville and asked for a list of those who had opposed Picerne’s project.

Lomas and Leiss notified the residents that time had been scheduled at the June 4 town meeting to introduce Lomas, share his development proposals with the community and answer their questions.

At the meeting, residents learned Lomas’ plans for the remaining 53 acres included 36.6 acres of single family residences (about 140 homes) and a 72-unit townhouse complex which would border on commercial property near Highway 395. The homes, Lomas told them, would meet federal affordable housing guidelines and would be sold to individual buyers who earned less than $44,000 per year at the time of the purchase. The townhouses would be leased to workers who earned from $12 to about $19 per hour.

Garry Leiss noted that the largest single group of people moving in to Douglas County are “empty nesters.”

“Many of the people who currently live in (neighboring) Chichester (Estates) would probably qualify,” Leiss said. “And I think we’ll have 40 percent or more retirees.”

In an information packet made available to those in attendance, Lomas included a map of the neighborhood showing how his project would move a county-planned town bypass road away from current residents’ homes and make Elges a cul-de-sac, eliminating through traffic. Lomas said the proposed developments would be accessed from the bypass, which would run from Highway 395 near the present Elges intersection to Muller Lane.

He also assured residents his properties were not tax-exempt and would pay impact fees and their fair shares of local taxes.

“These projects come out of the Treasury Department – a Ronald Reagan program,” Lomas told residents in answer to a question. “This is where this comes from. It’s the private sector that takes the risk.”

As a final point, Lomas told Elges residents he would speak with Picerne officials and suggest they buffer Crestmore from the neighborhood with a strip of four or five 12,000 square-foot, single-family residential lots along Elges.

“I can’t speak for Picerne, but I can tell you they’ve shown an interest in compromising,” he said.

Lomas’ presentation of his plans for the entire 53-acre property appeared to allay some of the residents’ fears.

“Their proposals make sense,” said Vic Bergstrom, an Elges resident who had objected to Crestmore. “I’m kind of anti-growth, but you can’t change what goes on. With these fellows, something can be worked out.”

Elges resident Russ McFadden said he had known that someday the farm property to the east would be developed. He said his concern had been that development should be integrated into the neighborhood.

“They made a good impression coming forward and explaining things and saying they’ll work with you,” McFadden said. “It looks like they can fulfill most of the wishes of the people on Elges, especially if they can help us get the 12,000 square-foot lots. (With houses and townhouses) this is an integrated program.”

Elges residents Steve Lee and Morris Kanter said increased traffic on the street had been a big issue for them.

“I like the cul-de-sac, it gets rid of through traffic and slows people down,” said Lee, who has small children.

Jerry Smith, Lee’s father-in-law, said he also thought Lomas’ suggestions would work with other residents.

Only Mabel Havens, 85, voiced disapproval of the entire proposed development.

“I don’t think that is very good for me,” Havens said. “(I have) affordable housing to the back and the southwest of me. I never locked my doors (before), but now there’s always something going on and it’s not a secure feeling. Even if this Picerne company will put single family residences in, it won’t be enough.”

Havens also said she objected to changing Elges from a through street, which intersects Highway 395 to the south of most shopping, into a cul-de-sac. Such a change would require anyone exiting the street for town to make a left-hand turn across traffic.

“How will I get to the bank?” Havens said.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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