August 27, 2002
I always appreciate the ironies of life.
As they say, life is stranger than fiction, and similarly, life is funnier than any joke book. The anti-growth movement in this county is an example. Many vocal proponents state that they were from California and saw what uncontrolled growth can do to places like San Jose, etc. What is ironic, these same former California residents are using California-style initiative and political tactics to accomplish their goal. Thus, they want to prevent California by turning into California.
The current anti-growth sentiment has been described as a “new” political movement. It is really nothing but a resurgence of the same anti-growth mentality that revealed itself through the actions of the former incarnation of the county commissioners. The county’s illegal burdening of new development resulted in growth going around the board instead of being controlled with rational planning. Not to mention the expenses associated with losing numerous lawsuits and loss of “public amenities” otherwise voluntarily paid by the property owner.
The county resolved some of these difficulties by adopting the master plan. But, to the apparent consternation of many, land use regulations (and yes, even the master plan) have limits. Something called the Constitution and property rights. Other anti-growth proponents now complain that an attack on the legality of their initiative is an attack on democracy. Wow. Preventing the imposition of an illegal law is an attack on democracy. Go figure. Exactly which democracy are you referring? The ones in France, Russia, Columbia?
The founding fathers of the USA’s brand of democracy left the decisions of government to elected representatives. The idea of a pure democracy was rejected. Sure, the ability of the people to redress their government was preserved, after all, that was the justification for the American Revolution as reflected in the words of the Declaration of Independence.
The founding fathers considered ownership of property a basic right and the cornerstone of responsible citizenry. It was believed that a vote is a dangerous thing, and only landowners were considered stable enough to entrust with this power.
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Although antiquated, the concept remains true. A resident who owns his own home is more likely to become an informed voter and active in local affairs. A true citizen. They have a stake in society D they pay taxes and remain in the community to become our friends and neighbors. Californians seem to forget these concepts when creating the numerous initiatives that their voters must wade through each election.
And now, at a theater near you … Nevada (the one I was raised in) does not like government intrusion, especially when a person wants to do something with his own property. And, since we only own 13 percent of our state, the idea of transferring any property rights to government should be a last resort. Less private land for Nevadans means less taxes to support our schools and government services. The “new” anti-growth movement and a majority of the county commissioners are intent on preventing development, either by taking property rights or imposing burdens that make even residential development too costly.
This exacerbates the affordable housing situation and creates an elitist community. No homes for your children, fewer jobs in the Valley. However, as the past has demonstrated, growth is and will proceed in spite of temporary delays. Look back 10 years ago D deja vu?
The master plan is a compromise of the rights of the property owners and governmental interests in the public health and safety. It is enveloped with a presumption of legality within constitutional parameters. As the master plan is but a collection of words, ambiguity inherent in language allows a few to rationalize the imposition of their ideas to maintain Eden at the expense of others. The democracy that is the USA should not be ignored for the sake of personal agendas.
n Kelly Chase is an attorney who works in Carson Valley.