Growth cap debate rages into the night |

Growth cap debate rages into the night

by Susie Vasquez

No decisions were made, but the debate over Douglas County’s growth cap raged late Thursday and the Douglas County Board of Commissioners got more than an earful.

Developers, ranchers and those supporting the cap debated aspects of the ordinance, everything from vested status for larger projects that received tentative approval before the ordinance was approved, to the method for adjusting the 2-percent compounded growth rate.

Lynn Hettrick, spokesman for the Coalition for Smart Growth, said the provision that voters approve a change in the growth cap rate would be unenforceable, fodder for a lawsuit.

“We were told a legislative body can’t adopt an ordinance restricting or binding subsequent bodies,” he said. “Our suggestion is that it be stricken.”

Representing Syncon Homes, attorney John Frankovich said it would be both time consuming and expensive to seek voter approval.

“It’s important this body remain flexible,” he said. “It should have the ability to react quickly.”

Commissioner Jim Baushke said the cap was chosen in an effort to respect the will of the voters, who approved a flat rate of 280 new homes a year in 2002.

The provision carries with it a perceived protection that the 2-percent compounded rate suggested in the ordinance could not be changed arbitrarily by future boards.

“But if that is subject to lawsuits, this ordinance could get thrown out on a technicality,” he said. “I don’t want to see that happen.”

Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Bob Morris said per Nevada law and the constitution, the ballot question would be advisory and nonbinding.

“That’s the method available,” he said.

The room was polarized as residents and commissioners aired ideas concerning a number of aspects of the ordinance, including vested status, banking and borrowing of permits, affordable housing and ag parcels.

Gardnerville resident Will Lewis said he’s seen developers and those supporting the growth cap in Douglas County come to some agreements in the past, but that seems to have changed.

“Developers decided we could fold the overhang, (permits approved before the ordinance is enacted) into the growth cap if the cap was at 2 percent compounded,” he said. “Now the developers are saying the overhang has to be outside the cap. We can move the cap to 2 percent fixed, if that’s what they want.”

The 2 percent compounded rate would increase each year, while the flat rate would be unchanged.

A 2-percent compounded growth cap was approved by Douglas County commissioners on a 3-1 in April. The approval subject to more scrutiny and adjustments in the coming months and the issues will be re-heard at 10 a.m. June 7.

In other business:

• Citing budget restraints, commissioners tabled an $8,000 grant request from the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority, the money to be used for a study of the feasibility of a performing arts center, the Copeland Theatre Project, in the Minden-Gardnerville core.

“I hate to do this, but can’t do it,” said Commissioner Kelly Kite. “I can’t go along with closing government programs to do a feasibility study.”

• Commissioners voted 3-1 to approve a cooperative agreement between Douglas County and Carson City regarding a revenue-sharing study concerning regional revenues.

The primary focus is the distribution of sales tax revenues, but other revenues allocated by state formulas could be incorporated.

Carson City is funding 100 percent of the study, which will be conducted under the direction of the Northern Nevada Development Authority.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 211.