Open space tax goes to voters |

Open space tax goes to voters

A quarter-cent sales tax to preserve open space will go on the ballot in November in a measure county commissioners unanimously agreed would help keep Carson Valley green.

A proposal to place a quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot to preserve open space was approved unanimously by Douglas County commissioners last week.

The sales tax in Douglas County is currently 7.1 percent. Carson City’s sales tax is 7.6 percent. If approved by voters, the tax could raise up to $2.1 million a year.

The county has relied on other means to preserve open space over the past quarter century.

By far the most effective was the purchase of development rights through the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, which used proceeds from sales of public land around Las Vegas to fund conservation easements in Douglas County.

Legacy Land and Water owner Jacques Etchegoyhen said Thursday the Bureau of Land Management is not interested in additional conservation easements after completing the two currently in progress.

Those include purchasing an easement on 1,300 acres of Park Cattle land around the Dangberg Home Ranch.

Proponent and Douglas County Planning Commissioner Mark Neddenriep pointed out that the other means to preserve open space, transferring development rights off agricultural land to build has languished since 2009.

He said one of the issues is that only land designated receiving area can use the rights. In an analysis, he pointed out that a 19-acre parcel sells for $600,000. In order to break even on development rights they would have to sell for $18,036 each.

Under the proposal, the sales tax would generate money to purchase development rights, with a priority for prime agricultural land and property in the floodplain.

Neddenriep said dividing the county’s open agricultural land in 19-acre parcels isn’t actually preserving it and would make it difficult to ranch.

Other priorities would include visual corridors, sensitive habitat, aquifer, the alluvial fans and property of historical significance among others.

Longtime resident and Carson Valley Conservation District Coordinator Mike Hayes wrote to support placing the tax before voters.

“This will preserve large parcels sizes in Carson Valley, helping to maintain its rural character,” he said. “At the same time, it will help the floodways and flood paths that provide for animal habitat, conveys water to agriculturalists while keeping Carson Valley green and serving as an inexpensive system for floodwater drainage.”

Hayes said the 1997 flood did an estimated $13.1 million in damage in Douglas County while costing Washoe County $536 million.

“These vast differences in costs can be directly related to the urbanization of the floodplain along the Truckee River,” he said. “Carson Valley does not have the luxury of having a large upstream storage, like a reservoir or a dam, to hold the snowmelt and storm runoff. Rather the river, sloughs and ditches allow for runoff to be carried and dissipated across the flood plain.”