Planning appointments prompt public outcry
January 11, 2011
Gardnerville resident and economic vitality champion Jim Slade welcomed three new members of the Douglas County Planning Commission on Tuesday with caustic criticism aimed at the county commissioners who had appointed them.
“Most people in Douglas County have the quaint impression that the planning commission is an independent body,” said Slade. “Obviously, that is no longer the case.”
On Jan. 3, county commissioners voted 4-1, with Doug Johnson opposing, to replace incumbent planning commissioners Lawrence Howell, Rick Ross and Bob Conner with Don Miner, Jeremy Davidson and Frank Godecke.
The decision sparked a firestorm of controversy and condemnation on The R-C website and editorial pages. Howell unsuccessfully had challenged county commissioner Nancy McDermid in the November election. Many claimed his removal was an act of political retribution.
McDermid maintained the vote was meant to bring fresh faces onto the advisory board.
Slade, however, said commissioners’ action was about power, greed, and vindictiveness. He was the only one who spoke during public comment at the first planning commission meeting of the year.
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“It was a clear sign to planning commissioners to blindly follow directions of the gang of four,” he said.
Slade argued that by removing Ross, a Topaz resident, and Howell, a Stateline resident, commissioners had disenfranchised voters in those areas.
“It was cronyism at its worst,” he said. “The county commissioners should be ashamed of themselves.”
n Planning commissioners voted unanimously to approve a zoning map amendment allowing 17.88 acres of historic agriculture land to be converted into a combination of public facilities zoning and rural agriculture zoning, the latter with a five-acre minimum parcel size. Planning commissioners also approved a major variance to allow an existing barn to encroach 15 feet into a future 20-foot side-yard setback area in anticipation of a boundary line adjustment.
Douglas County Community Development had initiated the changes on behalf of the Dean Seeman Trust/Foundation.
In June 2010, the county entered into a purchase agreement with the owners to acquire approximately 35-39 acres of the property along the Martin Slough, funded in part by State Question 1 monies. According to the county, the property will serve as a conservation area used for floodplain preservation, water quality improvements and public open space replete with bike bath and picnic area.
County planner Dirk Goering said 11.2 acres would be placed in a conservation easement, prohibiting any future development, and an estimated 6.68 acres would be converted to rural agriculture as based on county code and a revision of the flood map in that area.