Questions 1-4 Debated
Proponents of the ballot questions 1, 2 and 3 say new taxes are the only way to pay for inevitable growth in Carson Valley and the impacts to roads and traffic it brings.
Bill Hamilton, on the panel for the ballot questions proposing new roads taxes, said the bottom line is that the only way to pay for improvements for traffic and roads issues in the Valley is to raise taxes.
“It is going to happen later. We will be back and now money is cheaper for bonding. We’re ahead of the curve” (with the measures), Hamilton said.
Douglas County general election ballot questions for increasing taxes for roads and imposing a growth cap were the subject of public debates Thursday night.
The town hall debates, sponsored jointly by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Authority and the Business Council of Douglas County were held at CVIC Hall in Minden.
The debate started with parties in support and against ballot questions 1, 2 and 3, which is an increase of the optional 5-cent gas tax over two years, a 50-cents-per-square-foot tax on new construction of non-residential buildings and an increase of the sales tax by one-quarter of 1 percent (.0025) to be used for construction and repair of roads as well as issue bonds for road projects, respectively.
In support of ballot questions 1, 2 and 3 were Rudy McTee, Jim Winans and Hamilton. In opposition were Gary Pyle and Minden businessman Ray May.
Winans opened with the pro position by saying that “sitting back and doing nothing will determine our quality of life.”
He said the proposed road taxes will generate $2.5 million per year for the county by 2005. If the county continues to wait to address the issue, “costs will continue to rise.”
He also said the county has to ante up money in order to get assistance from the state.
“Douglas County needs to bring money to the table,” he said.
Pyle responded that there should be no rush to impose taxes on residents until a Capital Improvement Plan shows what roads need maintenance and how traffic will be rerouted or decreased.
May said the measure shouldn’t be on the ballot because it had already been repealed by voters in the early 1990s. He said the county needs to investigate other sources of revenue that can be used to fund road projects. May said the county took money from the roads fund and put it to use in the general fund.
“And lo and behold, now they have a shortfall in the roads fund,” he said.
“If I lost even $300 out of my budget I would want to know where that was,” May said.
Pyle added the county already has taxes on motor fuel, rooms and the $500 impact fees for residential developments.
“We should be using some funds from impact fees that we should have been charging for the last five years,” he said, to huge applause from the crowd.
An audience member asked about accountability for the money the taxes will generate. Another man in the audience followed by asking what happened to revenue generated by big businesses that have come into the county in the last few years. He also asked why other states have lower gas prices than Nevada.
“Many communities have costs (for bringing in industry), but they lay it out on the table, Winans said. “When they are spending a million to build, another $30,000 is not that much.”
McTee said, for the 20/20 Transportation Committee that developed the first three ballot questions, the “single biggest concern is that the money must be spent for roads.”
May said the bottom line is that “gas costs money and we don’t want to pay more.”
Pyle said the “very simple answer is that other states charge (reasonable) impact fees.”
The debate for ballot question 4 D the Sustainable Growth initiative which would limit new dwelling units to 280 per year in Douglas County D was supported by members of the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee, Judy Sturgis, John Garvin and Jim Slade, and opposed by Sandy Cable and James Settelmeyer.
Slade opened by saying that most people opposed to the growth cap are “developers with a vested interest.”
“This is not a no-growth measure,” he said. “We consider it to be moderate.
“The quality of life is threatened by excess growth. We don’t want to end up like Carson City, Reno or Las Vegas.”
Settelmeyer said the cap will not control growth, but cause it to shift to other areas that cannot be controlled, such as Washoe Tribal land. As a rancher, he said the cap would hinder ranchers’ efforts to sell pieces of their land.
“It is wrong to regulate private land use,” he said, “by reducing options available.”
Cable said the Douglas County Master Plan is already in place to control growth with solutions everyone can live with.
“But if we lose income generated (by new development),” she said, “by too much, too dramatically, we will see a rise in property taxes.
“If we don’t use the Master Plan, we will be impacted a lot sooner and we will see a decrease in services.”
Garvin countered that residential growth does not support itself and that taxpayers subsidize new housing by contributing $1.20 for impacts for every $1 put into the new development.
“We fail to consider the expenditure side of the equation,” he said.
An audience member asked how the cap would impact new industries relocating to Douglas County that would increase the housing demand.
Garvin responded that, as a fluid society, most people would travel from other areas to work in the Valley.
Settelmeyer said that solution would result in increased traffic.
“If there are such limited resources, why not apply (the cap) to business as well,” he said.
Sturgis said the county had contracted with the University of Nevada, Reno to address commercial development, but that study had “disappeared.”
“Unless we know different avenues of revenues versus taxes,” she said, “we can’t give clear answers.
“We need to look at industries and make that kind of judgement. But right now, we know what impact (residential development) has on the county.”
Many members of the audience murmured “boo,” when Cable said the county is not pro development.
“I’ve seen them turn down a heck of a lot in my years here,” she said.
Another audience member asked the panel how distribution of 280 permits would be determined D through a lottery process or length of residence in the county.
Garvin said growth is a very volatile issue, but the proposed cap is not a no-growth matter, “it’s a slow-growth issue.”
Settelmeyer said county housing prices will continue to rise even if the cap is imposed.
“I’ve been working for my family my entire life and I still can’t afford an acre,” he said.
Sturgis ended the debate by saying that imposing a cap to limit growth in the county to 2 percent a year, is still double the national average.
“We have heard this is bad for developers, but it’s not,” she said. “The more growth you have the more the pie gets divided. I think this will keep out big builders in the county.”
n R-C Staff Writer Regina Purcell can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com