County learns from city’s successes, mistakes
December 3, 2002
Barry Smith, a goodwill ambassador you are not.
Your recent diatribe “Natural beauty of big-box stores,” which recently appeared in the sister papers the Nevada Appeal and The Record-Courier, certainly begs a response.
I was Douglas County Commissioner from 1993 through 1996. I have lived in Douglas County for 14 years. Contrary to your stated opinion, we, the citizens of Douglas County do not now and never have looked down our noses at the citizens of Carson City. We have many good friends in Carson City. We share common problems. For years we have supported the many activities of Carson City, shopped in your stores, purchased your gasoline, dined in many of your restaurants. To say we look down our nose at you is rubbish. Of course we do deposit some of that in your fine refuse park because it happens to be closer and less expensive than our transfer station.
As county commissioner, I many times endured the barbs thrown at Douglas County by those elected peoples to the north. It was openly stated, both vocally and in print, that Douglas County was the “bed room community” supporting Carson City. You laughed at us. Many of our citizens worked, shopped and played in Carson County. As a matter of fact, we still do. Just look at the traffic lines going north on Highway 395 in the morning and returning in the evening.
Yes, that big sucking sound we all heard at the time was the sales tax revenue being sucked out of Douglas County into your till.
Your city rode the train to financial greatness in the 1990s. And you certainly let us know how great your decision making was. You were proud and justly so. Just look at your industrial development at the airport and your big box store developments building up in your city south. Right at our north county line just enticing our people to support your growing commercial developments. Support you we did. Support you we did and it cost us dearly.
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We established the Douglas County Economic Development Council in 1993. Studied your success is what we did. We carefully examined how to make it possible for industrial firms to locate in our airport area and succeed in their efforts. We talked with many commercial developers about Douglas County and how we might participate in the boom and our citizens benefit like the people in your city. We invited CB Commercial to tell us how to do it, the pitfalls of doing it, and how Douglas County might someday benefit. I will never forget their advice and counsel. All we had to do was wait.
We were advised that your city at that time was benefiting from several years of study by commercial developers. We were told that the decisions made by the money and development people were not based on local political boundaries. Demographics, incomes, citizen needs, roads, infrastructure and an available labor pool all went into that final decision. South Carson City was picked as the right spot for commercial development; easily accessed by Douglas County, Lake Tahoe, Lyon County and of course you in Carson City.
North Douglas County along 395 was in the sphere of this influence. We were in the right spot and at the right time. All we had to do was wait. We found the waiting difficult, indulged in some favorable commercial zoning at the north end of the county and really tried for the Costco store. It was an exercise in futility but we learned a lot. We never were better than second place but we did learn that Carson was rapidly running out of large parcels for development. They had all been spoken for. All we had to do was wait.
We asked if development in that area might tie into the Carson City existing infrastructure and if so at what price. We were emphatically told you were not interested then, and now again from what I read. And you speak of an enterprise zone with Douglas County. Why should we even waste our time discussing it with you now? How could we benefit? We don’t need you now. Carson missed the chance.
In 1996 we completed our comprehensive master plan.
You are absolutely right about the room tax issue. Our financial woes in the mid-1990s worsened in 1997 when Lynn Hettrick, Mark Amoedi, Pete Ernaut, Harvey Whittimore and the Douglas County Gaming Alliance conspired to legislatively strip Douglas County of sizable TOT tax revenues. Revenues that had been legislated by Nevada for use by Douglas County government since the early 1970s. Senator Jake, who championed the original tax bill in the 70s almost saved the citizens of his county again. In the end, power politics won out and we lost the revenue. That income was used by us to support library services, our senior citizen programs and our airport. The loss hurt. We passed a quarter cent sales tax to help take it’s place.
Yes, you are correct. We’d prefer the Carson Valley to look different than the Eagle Valley. What you see are the trailer parks, apartment buildings, race track that is Carson City and no we wouldn’t call it a natural beauty either. From there you can’t see your beautiful west side. The mess you see was approved by your elected officials. Ask them why they didn’t do better. Hopefully our commissioners heard the people in this last election.
You won’t stop or even slow down the commercial development in Douglas County corridor along Hwy 395 with Carson City Supervisor antics to delay the BLM land sale. What you may however accomplish is to delay housing that may be used by those who would work in those commercial establishments. These employees might very well choose to live in Carson City since you are so close.
You are now learning what we have long known. People and residential housing do not pay their way. Just evaluate your own situation when our tax money leaves your county.
Your industrial development can not make up the revenue loss as most of the output is not sales taxed. It can’t be under Nevada tax law. You need the big sales tax component retail sales and a large gaming component to bring in the revenues. Your land is essentially developed. You already have the population demanding services. Look at Reno, look at Las Vegas. If a large population base could turn the trick they would be the big winners instead of the big losers.
You won big with Costco — you lost big with Wal-Mart.
We’ll save you a spot in beautiful Douglas County if you save your pennies and can afford it.
On second thought, maybe you won’t fit in. We really don’t look down our noses at the people of Carson City. We aren’t superior. We just hope we don’t make all the mistakes. You really might not fit in.
–Bob Allgeier is a former Douglas County Commissioner who resides in Jacks Valley