Looking back on redevelopment and Genoa
February 28, 2017
A few facts and observations by a lifelong Genoa resident concerning the recommendation of former Douglas County commissioners Jacques Etchegoyhen and Bernie Curtis to dissolve the Douglas County Redevelopment District No. 1.
Let's go back to 1997, during which Douglas County was competing with Carson City for the development of new big box stores to enhance county tax revenues. The county aspired to develop shopping centers on the north end on both sides of Highway 395. The question was how to pay for the up-front infrastructure costs (water, sewer, roads, drainage, etc.) to accommodate the proposed shopping centers, car dealerships and Max Baer's Jethro's Casino. Douglas County Manager Dan Holler came up with a scheme of creating a redevelopment district that would receive all property taxes from the properties within the district, above existing baseline tax rates at the time the district was created.
However, the Nevada Revised Statutes 279.388 required blight to create a redevelopment district, and unfortunately, the sites to be developed were only occupied by sagebrush and jack rabbits. So Mr. Holler traveled to Genoa, which had abundance of blight at the time, and was met by skeptical residents who were not enthusiastic about participating in the scheme. Some residents in Sierra Shadows, recent migrants who had encountered unpleasant experiences with redevelopment districts in California, were adamantly opposed. To assuage their concerns, they were excluded from the district, and the remaining two-thirds of the town was included with some reluctance.
Redevelopment District No. 1 was created in July 1998 and subsequently funded some of the shopping centers, numerous other projects and incurred substantial subsequent legal costs while the county extracted itself from misadventures such as the contracts with the Riverwood Partners and the Hillbilly Heaven above Topsy Lane.
Around 2000, Walley's Hot Springs, 1.5 miles south of Genoa, was in need of expanded sewer services, which were addressed by construction of a sewer trunk line designed to pass through the town to Genoa Lakes, a half-mile north of Genoa. The system was ultimately serviced by the North Valley Sewer Plant via truck lines from the airport and Genoa Lane.
During the Great Recession, Gov. Jim Gibbons and the state Legislature were struggling to balance the state budget. Someone on his staff came up with a scheme to sweep up all of the slush funds from the 17 counties to find the needed revenues.
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When the news reached Douglas County Manager T. Michael Brown, he immediately set about to have the county commissioners appropriate all $2 million plus in the district to thwart the state's efforts. By the time the Legislature adjourned, they found sufficient revenues elsewhere and no longer needed the slush funds. But in the interim, district funds had already been appropriated to the Genoa Vista Trail from Walley's Hot Springs to Genoa and the redevelopment project, neither of which were solicited by the Town of Genoa or is residents. The county subsequently transferred the perpetual maintenance of these projects to the 220 residents of the Town of Genoa, whose primary source of revenue is Candy Dance.
Some observations to be gleaned are that the residents and the Town of Genoa did not initiate a request to be included in Redevelopment District No. 1, nor did they request the projects on which the revenues were expended and for which they are now saddled with the costs of maintenance.
In other words, Douglas County needed Genoa more than Genoa needed Douglas County, which feels free to continually use Genoa as its sandbox when convenient. Some of the redevelopment revenues should be shared with the town to assist it in carrying out the maintenance responsibilities thrust upon it by the county, as one-third of my property taxes go into Redevelopment District No. 1 coffers each year.
The fact that Etchegoyhen and Curtis were recently appointed to the newly created East Fork Fire District Board of Directors, which is now in search of added revenue, should not require the dissolution of the district, which is partially funding the federally mandated expansion of the North Valley Sewer Plant.
H. William Brooks is a Genoa resident.