Douglas County digs in on new mining rule
September 12, 2017
Two of Nevada's traditional economic activities, mining and agriculture, met in Douglas County in an ordinance proposed to limit commercial mining operations to general industrial zoning.
The ordinance sailed through the Douglas County Planning Commission on Tuesday with one abstention and one commissioner absent.
Planning Commissioner Frank Godecke, who told county commissioners last week he felt the ordinance was a bad one, recused himself from the debate.
Rancher Russell Scossa said he has a borrow pit on his property. After talking with Community Development Director Mimi Moss, he said he's probably exempt.
"There are always problems when you introduce an ordinance like this," he said. "Someone always gets squeezed."
He suggested that the 1,000-yard per parcel exemption might not be sufficient.
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That prompted Planning Commissioner Jim Madsen to suggest allowing 1,000 cubic yards per 100 acres.
"That's very reasonable, and is one tweak that I think would be beneficial to everybody," Madsen said.
Utopian Mine co-owner Sue Parkhurst said the mining claims on the 40-acre private parcel owned by her family date back to the 1990s. She said her husband explored the claim as a potential gold mine.
"We're very concerned the proposed ordinance will drastically reduce the use of the property," she said.
Moss said the ordinance won't affect small locating efforts such as that described by Parkhurst.
"Digging and testing is still allowed," she said. "When it becomes a viable mining site and becomes a mega commercial use that changes it from testing to do what they need to do if it's good or not."
The ordinance exempts miners who are moving small amounts of earth to explore for valuable minerals.
Public comment on Tuesday favored the ordinance.
Resident Bob Ballou said the ordinance does not ban mining and doesn't take property rights.
"This will save Douglas County residents a lot of angst about their quality of life," he said.
The ordinance returns to Douglas County commissioners, who approved its first reading last week, in October for a second reading.
East Valley resident Jim Durso said the special use permit process didn't protect neighbors from a potential gravel pit proposed by the former Douglas County Sewer District No. 1.
He pointed out the proposal was approved by staff twice and by the planning commission once.
"The idea of a gravel pit is not dead," he said. "Until they begin lining their existing ponds it is not dead. We've been under the shadow of this project for at least five years."
The Tahoe sewer district sought a permit to sell gravel to defray the cost of digging a new effluent storage pond on 1,000 acres it controls above Stockyard Road. The effort the filing of an unfounded ethics complaint against the planning official.
That prompted District Attorney Mark Jackson to publicly question the district's elections and operations, which eventually led the Nevada Legislature to repeal the statute under which the district was formed.
The new Douglas County Lake Tahoe Sewer Authority will take over control of the sewer plant on Oct. 1. The authority is governed by representatives of three districts served by the sewer plant and Douglas County, along with a Stateline business representative.
The plant is the only one serving the Douglas portion of Lake Tahoe and exports treated effluent over Kingsbury Grade to the Pine Nut foothills.
Currently, the plant is sharing a Bently pond with the Minden-Gardnerville Sanitation District. New housing growth in Carson Valley will increase the amount of effluent storage required by the Valley sewer district.