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New board to hit brakes on growth

Homes are being built in Minden.
Kurt Hildebrand

Citing water and traffic, at least one new commissioner suggested the county implement a moratorium on building permits pending completion of studies of both.

Commissioner Walt Nowosad said controlling growth was one of the seven planks in his platform.

Nowosad and fellow Commissioner Mark Gardner, joined new Commission Chairman John Engels in their concerns about water.



Gardner suggested requiring that any development rights used to build come from the same watershed and that unallocated building permits under the growth control ordinance be zeroed out.

Engels said the county can’t preserve its rural character and have large projects.



“We cannot have it both ways, either massive development or rural,” he said. “The congestion on our local roads, in our supermarkets and our local medical facilities are now stretched to the breaking point.”

A hydrologic study of the Humboldt River basin being done by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Desert Research Institute is costing $3 million.

Until Monday, Engels spent his first two years in the minority on the board, but on Monday he was elected chairman with the support of Gardner and Nowosad.

The previous majority approved a development agreement and master plan amendment that permitted the transfer of 1,044 acres of receiving area from the Sleeping Elephant Ranch in Topaz Ranch Estates to Park Ranch Holdings property north of Minden in exchange for the right of way for around three miles of Muller Lane Parkway.

On Dec. 17, Engels tried to head off funding design work on the route, threatening legal action if the county used money from the CARES grant to reimburse the general fund for expenditures from last year. That $1.1 million was the source for a contract to finish engineering on the road.

The same day, commissioners approved a specific plan for the Park property that would eventually allow 2,218 units to be developed in six phases over 30 years.

The county is obligated to build two lanes of the parkway by 2025 at a cost of $12.4 million.

The Park project is subject to the county’s 2 percent growth cap, but because there was little building after the Great Recession, the county accumulated a pool of more than 1,700 building permits.