Changing the rules in midstream
January 4, 2017
This will only take a few minutes. Please read it. Reread it if you want. It takes more than 3 minutes to say this all in public. But 3 minutes are all one is allowed at a county commissioner meeting. I share this information because it affects me, and any one else who has more than 100 irrigated acres in Douglas County.
The Douglas County Master Plan was updated and in the update process a policy was proposed to give ranchers and farmers a reward for keeping at least 100 acres in irrigated pasture.
The reward, the right to develop a 2-acre parcel every 5 years, was agreed to be in the master plan update. Dozens of farmers and ranchers packed meetings to discuss and negotiate the code wording. Which went through one planning commission meeting, then a county commissioners meeting, then the county commissioners sent it back to another planning commission meeting then the final county commissioner meeting.
The essence of the reward, to clarify, was a rancher or farmer who kept his, or her, more than 100 acres green got a reward. Allowed to create a 2-acre parcel instead of taking 20 acres out of production. And it would not strip away any development right from the other remaining irrigated land as long as it was more than 100 acres. It was a straightforward deal. No fine print, no restrictions on remaining land.
Months later it was written into county code, which county staff recently told me was done "poorly", "not very clear."
Since this agreed upon code update of December 2007, eight parcels have been created with no restrictions on the various landowners' other irrigated lands. However, recently an individual submitted a 2-acre request. Now the county staff said a restriction would be placed on the landowners other property, stripping away a development right from the remaining 100 plus acres.
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The county staff said this new requirement and change in understanding of the code came from the Community Development Director, Mimi Moss and deputy district attorney, Cynthia Gregory.
When presented with the written minutes and a verbal recording of the meeting where the intent of this "reward" was crystal clear Moss and county manager Larry Warner refused to repeal the request of stripping away the farmer or ranchers development right from the remaining irrigated acres.
Basically the 2-acre code was nullified. A rule change in the middle of the game. And there is no recourse available at this time to challenge this new interpretation.
District attorney Mark Jackson will not return phone calls or respond to emails regarding the matter.
This is a black and white mistake. The controlling sources will not listen to appeals of a rancher. Will not listen to the recorded evidence, nor read the documents showing the error in this new interpretation.
No one should have to go before the County commissioners again to get it corrected. But one irrigated lands owner did. And according to protocol was allowed only 3 minutes to make his statement, to explain all the previously agreed upon negotiated details.
The discussions leading to the code and updated master plan took hundreds of man-hours of very busy people, 4 public meetings, over 4 months. Moss was present at many of those discussions. It is impossible to cover all the details again in 3 minutes. It is frustrating to believe no one is listening. But maybe someone will read, and reread this.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.