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Industry officials predict less development in Valley

by Jeff Munson

Though growth and development in Douglas County surged during the past eight years, some industry leaders believe the region will level off as the nation prepares for a possible recession.

“Based on the statistics we’re seeing, things will continue to go well, but business growth will probably slow down,” said Suzanne Rosevold, executive director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority.

“Building as we know it in Douglas County is going to subside,” said Carole Thompson, executive director of the Douglas County Building Industry Association.

The main reason is because of a shortage of developable property, Thompson said. Already, building starts are down compared to last year.

“It’s realistic to say that we are maxed out” in desirable, developable property, Thompson said.

Good property in the Carson Valley has been bought up by developers, forcing a surge in land values, she said. And while there are a handful of developments planned so far this year, there isn’t enough property left after the developments are finished to forecast a robust future.

Instead, Thompson predicts more building will occur in Yerington and Smith Valley.

“If we’re talking trends, then these will be the areas homebuilding will move to,” she said. “The trend for new homes will be in the east and north ends of Douglas County.”

According to Mimi Moss, planning and economic development manager for Douglas County, there are 1,900 residential lots available in Douglas County to build on.

Aside from the north county, where new industry and home developments are promising, Moss predicts some growth in the Genoa area because of the water and sewer line extension, the area surrounding Walley’s Hot Springs, and around Stateline.

Thompson said 2000 was a good year for builders. Last year 1,777 home building permits, including single family homes and manufactured homes, were issued.

“The industry was at an all-time peak in 2000. We saw people coming in from California and back east to retire who wanted homes. There is still a demand, but again there’s not enough property,” Thompson said.

Local builders are also concerned about the county’s 5-year master plan update. It would be beneficial to the building industry if it remained unchanged, she said.

“Builders are pleased with the master plan as it is now, unless the county wants to open up more open space,” she said.

“I think when done carefully we can come to a compromise. We certainly don’t want the ranchers ‘property to be consumed again. We do believe the rancher can make a living with dignity here and keep open space with some building around it,” she said.

For that to happen, cooperation is needed, she said.

In the meantime, builders may find work in the remodeling of homes, especially with homeowners looking to make their homes more energy efficient, she said.

“They’re going to have to look for other means and they may be required to have additional training in new technologies,” she said.

DCBIA will hold its annual Forecast 2001 workshop Feb. 28, where Thompson and others will address building concerns and trends. Featured speakers include Dan Holler, Douglas County Manager, Jeff Whitaker, a financial adviser with Waddell and Reed, a representative of Sierra Pacific Power and Rob Wigton of Century 21/Clark Property.

Last year was one of the county’s best years for business development, industry officials said.

Figures released from the Northern Nevada Development Authority show growth and development trends in 2000 improved in areas of new business inquiries, on-site prospect visits, new company relocations and new jobs created in Douglas County.

Last year, for example, four new companies opened their doors in Douglas County, the same as in 1999. Two companies expanded in 2000, as opposed to one in 1999 and 44 new jobs were created as opposed to 33 in 1999. The amount of building space square footage also expanded last year, with 102,200 square feet created as compared to 50,500 in 1999, according to statistics compiled by the Northern Nevada Development Authority.

During 2000, a number of large commercial projects were either approved by the county, began construction or were completed.

Projects completed in 2000 included Home Depot, the Century 21 Clark Properties Real Estate Mall, Minden Plaza North, and the Historian Inn. Thirty commercial permits were issued in 2000.

Population and employment trends are also one way to gauge the future.

Preliminary census information released to the county shows population growth for Douglas County has dipped by 1.2 percent in 2000. In 1999, population growth was at 2.8 percent.

Rosevold said development trends in north Douglas County continue to show signs of strength as more homes are proposed for the area. Also on the radar screen for growth and development is the availability of new public land, she said.

The Bureau of Land Management is preparing an amendment to its master plan for the Jacks Valley area. Plans will likely include the exchange of public land to private ownership, which may lead to residential and commercial development.

“I think there are a lot of things to be excited about in the north county and, while some areas will not see as much growth as in previous years, there will be growth and development there that will benefit the entire county,” Rosevold said.

NNDA executive director Kris Holt said there is potential for more high-tech development in the area. He also said NNDA is working on potential business relocations in Douglas County, but declined to elaborate on what may be in the works.

Regionwide, NNDA has experienced a slow calendar year regarding business inquiries, on-site visits, new company relocations and job creation, Holt said.

In a press release, NNDA cited several reasons numbers are down, including tightened business margins, California’s healthy economy and fluctuating interest rates.

January, however, started out strong, Holt said.

“We have had 16 companies inquire about relocation (in Northern Nevada) to date. Many from California because of the energy situation,” Holt said.

Douglas County has been aggressive in going after development, Holt said.

“Douglas County has developed a real business friendly environment over the past three or four years,” Holt said, attributing the change to the leadership of County Manager Dan Holler and the Douglas County Commission.

Bkout

To learn more about business and building trends in Douglas County, the Building Industry Association will holds its annual Forecast dinner Wednesday, Feb. 28, 6 p.m. at the Carson Valley Inn.

Speakers include County Manager Dan Holler, Financial Adviser Jeff Whitaker and a spokesman from Sierra Pacific Power.

The cost is $22.50 and includes a buffet dinner.

Call (775) 783-1782 for information.

(Note: In photo section under “graphics for Ed” we have a 2 column by 2 1/2 inch graphic on Douglas County trends.