Master plan update on hold |

Master plan update on hold

Should the next master plan meeting be held on Groundhog Day?

On Monday, county commissioners delayed discussion of the master plan, and canceled a second meeting set for Jan. 31.

“I ask you as a group to figure out a direction before we move forward,” Carson Valley Chamber Director Bill Chernock said. “I would never forgive myself for not suggesting that the next meeting be held on Feb. 2 in honor of Groundhog Day.”

Commissioners tried to tackle the plan’s conservation element on Monday, but ended up continuing it after two hours of debate on what it should say.

At least one point of contention was air quality, which Commissioner Barry Penzel blamed on California wildfires.

“The air quality element is blaming fireplaces for air quality dips, when we know they really come from California forest fires,” he said. “The air quality doesn’t count that in this, and we should. People have left the county because the forest fire in Yosemite.”

The element discussing fireplaces and air quality has been in the master plan since at least the 2006 update.

Other policies in the 2016 draft of the master plan that have been there since 2006 encourage residents to upgrade wood burning stoves and reducing generation of dust from agricultural activities.

“We can continue each element and do the same thing with each element, and have it look just like Groundhog Day, spend a lot of time getting nowhere,” Commission Chairman Steve Thaler said. “In order for us to help staff out and help the public we need to put together a meeting with the planning commission. I think we’re going to debate how it looks and what’s in it. We need to fix this or we’ll just keep doing this over and over again.”

Commissioner Dave Nelson suggested keeping the 2011 version of the master plan for the next few years.

“I’m wondering where a lot of these things came from in this update,” he said. “I think this plan came from a lot of places but not the public as a whole. Let the 2011 plan stay in place for three years.”

Commissioner Larry Walsh said there was a lot of work already done on the plan, and that he’s not ready to set it aside for three years.

“Let’s get it done and done right,” he said. “I’d like to see the phrase ‘where economically feasible,’ be eliminated. But I’d like to see us continue.”

Commissioners asked for a joint meeting with planning commissioners be scheduled in the next two months.

County Manager Larry Werner said it would take longer than 60 days to get back to commissioners because the county has entered the annual budget cycle.

Resident Jim Slade said the commission’s work on the master plan was an example of dysfunctional government.

“To suggest that because there are five of you and you don’t see eye-to-eye and you need to start over again, is really disheartening,” Slade said. “I was there for the 5-, 10- and 15-year updates, and they happened in a timely manner. It’s unbelievable to me that two years into this process, after apparently wasting all this time and money, you tell them ‘We don’t like the format.’”

Work on the update has been underway since Feb. 9, 2016, when commissioners and planning commissioners held a joint meeting.

So far, the plan has been the subject of a web page, four community workshops, a survey with 898 responses, stakeholder interviews with 48 organizations and 221 public comments.

All counties with more than 45,000 people are required by law to have a planning commission and a master plan. State law requires only one element, but the Douglas plan has contained most of the elements it has now since 1996.

While commissioners Nancy McDermid and Larry Walsh have served on the planning commission during past master plan updates, only McDermid was on the county board for the 2011 update, which was approved in January 2012.

Penzel took office Jan. 1, 2013.