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Snapshot: Is master plan working?

by Sheila Gardner

Douglas County’s population growth is steady, the focus is shifting from a bedroom community to an economically diversified hub, median household income is $55,200 and most of the county’s residents are between the ages of 35 and 44.

That was the snapshot provided to county commissioners during last week’s annual master plan review. The land use plan – now nearly 3 years old – is bearing out the priorities of the community and seems to be working, said John Doughty, planning and economics development manager.

“We’re roughly at the same point as we were last year, which was a good development year,” Doughty said. “Williams Ridge at Aervoe Pacific is an excellent addition to the industrial area. The East Valley area represents an interesting shift with the move toward the Bently Science Park. It’s not fast food, it’s job creation.”

Doughty said nearly 700,000 square feet of commercial area were approved and permitted in 1998, compared to 413,000 in 1997. The Bently project represents 250,000 square feet, more than one-third of the allocation.

“It’s unknown to what extent the master plan influenced this activity,” Doughty said in his report. “It is, however, reasonable to assume that the adoption of the master plan, the codification of Title 20 and the adoption of the design manual has eliminated uncertainties in the development process.”

Projects in 1998 included Lampe Corners (Arco AM/PM MiniMart, Kentucky Fried Chicken), Carson Valley Medical Mall, Q-Lube, Ironwood Stadium Cinema, Round Hill Square, Williams Ridge Industrial Park, Whitesage Investments (Tower Structures), Citizens Mortgage Center, H&S Building, Riverbend Fitness Center and McDonald’s Playplace.

Projects under construction include Summerville at Virginia Creek continuing care center, Drago’s Salon expansion and Carson Valley Christian Center.

A total of 498 residential building permits were issued countywide throughout 1998, according to the report. Of those, 435 are valid and active; the figure includes 26 mobile home permits.

n No TDRs yet. “The past year has not seen the use of the transfer of development rights program for market-rate residential subdivisions,” Doughty said in his report. “This may be due primarily to the approximately 1,500 existing tentative subdivided residential lots which have been approved within the last 10 years, but are awaiting recordation of final maps.”

The prior year figure was more than 2,000 lots, which was reduced in 1998 due to the expiration of several subdivisions such as Genoa Lakes North (Little Mondeaux) and Southridge.

“It appears that the TDR program is either influencing decisions not to process tentative maps or that the market has dictated that there is no need for additional tentative/final parcels given that no new market-rate housing projects have been proposed within the receiving areas,” Doughty said. “Based on previous discussions and ongoing dialogue, it is still premature to judge the successfulness of the program.”

n Population is growing. Quality of life indicators – measuring population growth and demographic change, level of services and natural resources – show the county’s population grew 4.6 percent, and the largest concentration of residents is between the ages of 35 to 44, followed by 45 to 54.

According to figures from the state demographer, the 1998 population estimate is 41,420, compared to 39,590 in 1997. That represents a 36.3 percent increase in the past five years. That figured is somewhat skewed, however, by a 13.92 percent increase in 1994 that made up for earlier, incomplete figures.

The county’s unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, compared to 6.7 percent in 1997.

“One common thread through two master plans – 16 years apart – is that this community agrees on the value of that open green space,” said County Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen. “Open space is part of a master plan the community thinks we ought to be pursuing.”

In the last master plan amendment cycle, Doughty said only three changes were made.

“I look at that as great evidence of a plan that is working,” Doughty said Monday. “I’m not seeing an overwhelming desire to go out and make changes with it. I don’t think we can rest on our laurels, however. It’s a plan that is always evolving.”