Redevelopment committee fields questions from residents |

Redevelopment committee fields questions from residents

by Linda Hiller

Members of the Redevelopment Citizen’s Advisory Committee faced a tough room Monday when more than 100 residents of the North Valley turned out to attend a community workshop.

In an attempt to understand just what could befall their neighborhood if redevelopment becomes a reality, homeowners from Jacks Valley, Alpine View Estates and Indian Hills neighborhoods fired accusing comments and demanding questions at a quorum of the eight-member panel.

County Manager Dan Holler and County Planning/Economic Development Manager John Doughty began the meeting by attempting to explain the mechanics of redevelopment despite interruptions by audience members.

“Why don’t you just stop now and take a vote,” said one angry woman. “None of us are stupid enough to want redevelopment.”

At issue are three proposed redevelopment areas which include Walley’s Hot Springs, Little Mondeaux on Jacks Valley Road and an area north which roughly includes Indian Hills, Jacks Valley and land on either side of Highway 395 in the northernmost section of Douglas County.

The county has formed a redevelopment agency and is investigating the possibilities of moving forward with redevelopment in an effort to, among other things, “stop the tax drain to Carson City,” as Holler said.

Commercial interests such as Costco have investigated setting up shop in northern Douglas County, he said, but the lack of infrastructure has ultimately discouraged developers due to excessive costs of putting in sewer and water services and other infrastructure expenses.

At Monday’s workshop, Holler asked the citizens advisory group to introduce themselves, and as each member was identified as either a business person, developer or state representative of the Nevada division of government affairs for contractors – residents expressed their distrust for such a development-skewed panel with moans and comments.

RCAP chairman Tony Prestigiacomo spoke to the audience in an attempt to quell the hostile outbursts.

“Look, our primary focus is to gather information from the citizens of Douglas County,” he said. “It behooves us all to become informed.”

As Holler continued with the explanation of redevelopment, it was the discussion of what is a “blighted area” that particularly fed the ire of homeowners.

Defining blight as a legal term, Holler read from a definition which included “age, obsolescence, deterioration, dilapidation, mixed character or shifting of uses, defective design and character of construction, overcrowding,” among other less-than-flattering descriptions.

Residents were clearly offended by their neighborhood being labeled blighted.

“None of the Realtors advertised this neighborhood as a blighted area when we bought here,” said Arcadia Drive resident Ken Kohler, who has lived in Jacks Valley for six years.

As a volunteer with the Jacks Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Kohler expressed concern that adding too many homes to the immediate area could make demands on a fire department that is already understaffed due to difficulty in getting volunteers and overworked due to the addition of Sunridge Homes and now Valley Vista Homes.

Inez Kirson of Green Acres Drive, said she liked the so-called blight of her neighborhood.

“We moved here to get away from paved roads and street lights, so we could see the stars at night,” she said. “I don’t mind the dust, I just use a dust mop. I’m very happy with my blighted acre of land. Why are people so anxious to change things?”

Panel member Jay Lather, who manages the Genoa Lakes Golf Course, attempted to diffuse the residents’ wrath by saying that if he was in a position where redevelopment was being imposed on him, he’d be upset, too.

“We’re just here to figure out what you want and synthesize the information into a meaningful recommendation,” he said. “We like to call ourselves the spear catchers. If you don’t want the redevelopment – fine. We don’t make the decisions, we just recommend to the county commissioners. Go to the board of county commissioners and talk to them. This is democracy at its best.”

Larry English, who is the manager of a small improvement district, Sierra Estates GID, which supplies water to several homes within Jacks Valley, took exception to Holler’s summary of his GID as needing better fire hydrants during his definition of blight.

“Our fire hydrants are the only ones in the area,” he said, to which one resident chimed, “Amen.”

“Our own fire chief, Jim Reinhardt, is on our system and he knows the fire hydrants were put in to code,” English said. “Jim says they bring in a special tanker when they come to fire calls here, so it isn’t a problem for the fire department.”

After Holler talked of the possibility of nitrate-contaminated wells, Arcadia Drive resident Sindy Scarce asked why so many golf courses are being allowed to go in, especially since heavy fertilization is required on the many acres of new grass.

“Two golf courses in our charging area is a real problem,” she said, adding that all homeowners present should have their wells tested for contamination.

Many homeowners were generally skeptical of efforts by county government to interfere in any way with what is already a valued, cherished lifestyle.

To thunderous applause, Green Acres Drive homeowner, Bill Mattas, who has lived in the area for more than 26 years, said he was against what he called millionaire developers putting in “cookie cutter houses on postage stamp lots.”

Smaller lot sizes mean more money to developers, he said.

“It’s an example of how developers rape the land,” he said. “Douglas County seems to be unable or unwilling to stop it.”

Although it seemed as though the majority of residents in attendance at Monday’s three-hour workshop – including the more than 20 people who spoke for the record – were not in favor of participating in redevelopment project area 1, others expressed interest in not being left out of possible improvements.

“I have attended all the meetings and appreciate all the information so far,” said Judy Larquier of Pawnee Drive, adding that homeowners shouldn’t be so quick to rule out participating in the redevelopment project.

“If development goes in anyway and groundwater is affected, we might want to look at connecting to water or sewer. If we get out now, we can’t get back in.”

Steve Mihelic of Cherokee Drive said that while he was initially irritated that Jacks Valley had been labeled a blighted area, he wanted to keep an open mind when analyzing the facts of redevelopment. He cited residents of a neighborhood in Carson City who didn’t have an option when they were forced to sign up for sewer service, receiving $5,000 bills on their front porches one day.

“I’d like to see the plan,” he said. “If we can say whether we want certain items like street lights, for example, then maybe it’s a good idea. If we back out, our options are gone.”

Tom Davis of Cherokee Drive, president of the North Valley Concerned Citizens who fought the Valley Vista development on Jacks Valley Road for many years until they lost the battle two years ago, questioned the pro-development composition of the Redevelopment Citizen’s Advisory Committee.

“The reason this group doesn’t trust you is because after two years of fighting the Valley Vista development, the county ignored us. I wouldn’t have put developers in this group. You’ve formed a group that’s not believable. What we’re afraid of is if we let your foot in the door, you’re going to take the whole door.”

The next workshop of the county Redevelopment Citizens Advisory Committee will be Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. in the old courthouse, 1625 Eighth Street, Minden. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

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