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Master plan update could be done by Christmas

Workers completed the connection of Santa Anita Avenue to the intersection of highways 88 and 395 in Minden this week. The road serves a project that was subject to a 2017 master plan amendment that converted the property from a hotel casino and shopping mall to homes and neighborhood commercial.
Kurt Hildebrand

Douglas County just might find an updated master plan under its tree this Christmas.

On Tuesday, planning commissioners heard an update on the process to finish the update that has been in progress for nearly four years.

The county is currently operating under the 2011 plan. First approved in 1996, the plan had undergone updates every five years.

When the latest attempt to update the plan was presented to county commissioners in January 2018, it was rejected as too bloated.

Chief Planner Sam Booth told planning commissioners that when he was hired in December 2018 there wasn’t a community development director or a county manager.

“My direction was ‘don’t wait on those guys, it’s been too long,” he said. “The plan is far overdue to be updated.”

Despite commissioners’ balking at final approval of the 2016-17 effort, Booth said he felt there’s good data in the draft plans.

Left to update in the plan are the goals and policies, descriptions, analysis and population data. The ongoing U.S. Census may wind up contributing to the latter.

Last year, commissioners approved the master plan maps, which were held up by the inclusion of the transfer of 1,044 acres of receiving area from the Sleeping Elephant Ranch in Topaz Ranch Estates to Park Cattle Holdings land in Carson Valley.

That debate required two separate master plan revision efforts by the county, after one had to be rescinded due to questions about noticing.

Booth said the county ended up sending out 8,000 notice letters on the amendment and was completed in December 2019.

Last month, county commissioners voted to hire consultant Wood Rogers to help Community Development wrap up the master plan work.

Community Development Director Tom Dallaire said the department anticipated a slow-down due to the coronavirus outbreak, but that didn’t happen.

“We were hoping to get this work done on our own,” he said. “Funding came from salary savings in our department.”

One concern is the level of public outreach on the plan, which in the past has included public meetings and online polls.

“We hope to have online and in-person open house meetings, but that’s changing on a week-to-week basis,” Booth said.

Public workshops on the plan are expected to take place in August and early September.

“After we receive input, we’ll move to drafting the plan,” Booth said. “Once we have a draft of the plan, we’ll come back to the planning commission and put the public on notice it’s ready to be reviewed.

Booth admitted it was an aggressive timeline that could be affected by any changes that come up.

“We looked at what happened to this plan and that it has been pushed back year after year,” he said. “We’re trying to tackle the plan head-on.”

Booth said planners hope to have a joint meeting with county commissioners in early August to discuss the process.

Planning Commission Chairman Kirk Waldear urged residents to visit the county’s master plan web page rather than wait for the actual plan to come out. He said approval of the plan requires a 5-2 vote.