Effectiveness of development rights program questioned | RecordCourier.com

Effectiveness of development rights program questioned

by Jeff Munson

Douglas County planning commissioners said Tuesday they are uncomfortable changing the master plan to expand a fledgling program designed to maintain open space.

Instead, commissioners want more public hearings on the transfer of development rights, also known as TDRs, which allows residential developers to build on property more suitable for homes while paying ranchers to preserve open space.

The program, adopted as part of the 1996 Douglas County master plan, has yet to draw any participants. The proposed amendments are designed to jump-start the program by providing land owners and developers less red tape to muddle through and more incentives to participate.

The planning commission heard mixed reviews of the program. Open space advocates say they are unhappy with at least two of the proposed changes, while some builders think the program should be dropped.

Developer Greg Lynn said only a small number of Douglas County citizens are publicly calling for more open space.

“I disagree with the conservation philosophy,” said Lynn.

He said the open space policy hurts the ability of middle income people to buy affordable housing.

“I feel the program, as it stands now, takes care of the millionaires just fine, but what about the rest of us?” Lynn said.

Rob Anderson, a civil engineer, said the TDR program has failed because no developer or ranch owner has used it.

“This TDR program is not working,” he said. “I believe it is incumbent on the board to carefully consider the net and realistic result of the master plan.”

Anderson suggested the county abandon the program, and instead let open space issues be resolved by elected officials.

Carson Valley rancher Barbara Byington said the TDR program offers no incentive to the rancher to not develop the property because it is not cost effective.

“Why should I give away 20,000 acres for $2,000, because that’s what it is. If you are trying to save the area, you should consider offering more,” Byington said.

The planning commission agreed to solicit more public comment. The planning board also agreed to hire an independent consultant to explore options before making a recommendation to the county commission.