‘Good start’ on land plan | RecordCourier.com

‘Good start’ on land plan

by Christy Chalmers

Douglas County leaders got another “good start” toward preserving undeveloped land, in the form of an implementation plan assembled by a semi-private coalition.

The plan was distributed Thursday and county commissioners will discuss it in detail May 4. County Commissioner Don Miner called the plan “a good start. The content of the plan looks very good.”

The document repeats many of the philosophies and goals listed in the 1996 master plan about the value of preserving undeveloped land, and lists several methods. The top suggestion is to acquire conservation easements, in which willing landowners are paid to not develop their property.

Other options include land exchanges, transferring development rights to other property and clustering houses to maintain an uncluttered view.

The plan does not offer specific suggestion on which Douglas County properties should be protected. That task would be left to the Douglas Legacy Committee, an appointed board that would be responsible for implementing and administering the program.

The Legacy Committee would develop selection criteria and review potential projects.

No funding source for a preservation program has yet been established, but Douglas voters may be asked to create one in November. Potential funding options include a quarter-cent sales tax hike, a 1-cent property tax increase and a one-tenth of a percent levy on real estate purchases.

A citizens committee will be appointed to write pro and con arguments for the ballot question. County commissioners have not yet decided which question to ask because they want more information on how much money each method would generate and how the program would be handled.

An open space implementation plan must be adopted if a ballot measure is pursued.

The proposed plan was assembled by the coalition, which is made up of ranchers, business people and land owners.