Time running out for open space | RecordCourier.com

Time running out for open space

by Christy Chalmers

Just over a week remains to finesse a ballot question and an accompanying implementation plan that have been likened to a chameleon on a paint chart.

Douglas County planning and county commissioners tackled the job Thursday in the first of three special meetings. After nearly three hours of discussion, they adjourned, tired and a little ragged.

The county commission has approved a plan to ask voters in November if they want to raise their sales tax by a quarter cent and use the proceeds to preserve undeveloped land. But an open space management plan must be in place, and the ballot question language must be submitted by July 17.

County leaders are trying to get both documents done, but some think maybe the management plan will have to wait.

“I’m afraid you’re going to end up missing the deadline,” said Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Reed, urging the commissioners to focus on the ballot question.

District Attorney Scott Doyle, who is assembling an explanation and arguments for and against the question, said multiple drafts of the plan are confusing.

“Right now, people are being asked to identify the color of a chameleon as it runs across a paint chip chart,” he said. “If we can’t keep track of it, how can we expect (voters) to keep track of it?”

County Commissioner Kelly Kite said the latest draft of the plan is “an excellent start,” but “I don’t see how we can come together with a plan and adopt it in a two-week time frame. What we need to do is come up with a good management plan, not just a plan we can sell to the public.”

County Commissioner Steve Weissinger agreed, suggesting the county should back off on the management plan because it doesn’t have to be done until mid-September.

Doyle said plenty of work remains to be done on the ballot question. He said he is still working with residents to complete the pro and con arguments and several technical changes are needed.

Even if work on the overall plan is postponed, the elements affected by the ballot question have to be done by July 17. Once the ballot question is set, its provisions have to be upheld in the plan.

The commissioners were adamant about adopting a plan, even if funding isn’t in place.

“I want an open space plan. If it’s done properly, the money will flow,” said Commissioner Don Miner.

The proposal has some critics. Carson Valley rancher Nate Leising is worried private property rights will be eroded and opposes the sales tax question. His comments brought a short outburst from county commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen, who left the meeting briefly before returning and apologizing.

The county and planning commissions will meet again Tuesday at 6 p.m. A final meeting is scheduled Thursday evening, also at 6 p.m.

The meetings will be at the old courthouse, 1616 Eighth St., Minden.