Minden looks at prosperity planning | RecordCourier.com

Minden looks at prosperity planning

by Sheila Gardnerr

Nearly a century after Minden’s founding fathers planned the little town, residents and business owners are wrestling with a task they’ve seen other communities botch: perfecting the mixture of past and present.

For more than three hours Tuesday, members of the Citizens Advisory Committee met with Bruce Race, a Berkeley, Calif., architect and urban planner hired to help Minden create a plan that takes advantage of the 95-year-old town’s heritage and opportunities for economic growth.

“Minden’s strength is the original plan,” Race said. “Most cities would die to have a plan that was an original idea.”

Race, who has acted as a consultant on community plans from Singapore to Sacramento, told the committee one of its primary jobs is to bring people to upcoming workshops over the next few months to participate in the planning process.

“One of your most important functions is to listen to the community,” Race said. “My job is to be the facilitator, to help you listen, record, and summarize – to put this all together.

“At future meetings I hope you have more than 100. For this to be a credible process, it has to be transparent. Nothing should smell like a backroom deal. Everything has to be in the open. How we communicate is really key. The process better be really representative.”

The nine members of the advisory committee represent residents and business owners. They include Don Frensdorf, Ron Lange, Karen Dorf, Helen Brownfield, Chris Nenzel, Don Hellwinkel, Bob Cooke, Tom Deck, Michelle Gabler, Tim Jacobsen, Bill Henderson and Ray Case. Each had the opportunity to discuss what makes Minden unique and what challenges the town faces.

“I’ve lived here for 35 years and Minden is a neat little town,” said Deck. “I would like to see some orderly growth.”

Hellwinkel, whose family has operated the C.O.D. Garage for 88 years, referred to himself as “an old dinosaur.”

“I’m not sure I am ready for all this,” he said.

Gabler talked about the “Minden mindset” which fears change and sometimes promotes exclusivity.

“People move to Nevada for a lifestyle change. They want ‘charming,'” Race said. “They show up in their Birkenstocks, driving their Volvo stationwagons with $400,000 burning a hole in their pocket from selling their house in Berkeley.”

He told the advisory group there is “no right or wrong way” to look at the community.

“As an urban designer, I look for a town plan, and yours is very clear, elegant, simple and charming,” Race said. “You’ve got a sense of what needs to be done.”

Minden was designed by town founder H.F. Dangberg Sr. with a central town park surrounded by a 3-block by 6-block grid of streets. The park is still the focal point of the downtown core.

County Manager Dan Holler, who attended the meeting with economic development manager Mimi Moss, planning commissioner Valida McMichael and county commissioner Don Miner, said the county’s interest is pegged to ownership of the Minden Inn.

The county is negotiating to purchase the abandoned restaurant and dry cleaning shop attached to the Minden Inn. If successful, the restaurant would probably be converted to county office space and the dry cleaners torn down, Holler said.

Holler stopped short of calling the Minden planning process “redevelopment.”

“I think the redevelopment concept is one piece of it, but not THE issue. Some people don’t want to redo anything. They want to make sure everything is retained,” Holler said. “They want to make sure Minden can provide and enhance business opportunities without tearing down what it has.”

The project also was spurred on by businesses inquiring about opportunities in Minden as well as developments such as Bently Nevada Corp. moving out of the Minden core to new headquarters at the Bently Science Park.

He said Gardnerville could be considered for a similar effort if the Minden project is a success.

“If you took on Minden and Gardnerville at the same time, you could potentially experience a greater chance of failure from the aspect that you are looking at two different pieces of the pie with people who look at and do things differently,” he said.

Holler said he was pleased with Tuesday night’s turnout.

“We have people who have been engaged in the public process and people who haven’t. I think it’s unique to have both. These are not politicians. They are the people who live and work in Minden, and that’s good.”

Mimi Moss said the process represents “the fun part of planning.”

“It’s good to have the community involved. I’m really jazzed. It’s a great opportunity to get people thinking about their community plan,” she said.