Guest Opinion: Some answers to inquiries about question No. 1 | RecordCourier.com
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Guest Opinion: Some answers to inquiries about question No. 1

by Michael Hayes

There are a lot of questions about question No. 1, the .0025 sales tax increase for open space and agricultural preservation. I guess the best way to address them is to try the old “who, what, where, when and why” answer.

Who? The people who shop in Douglas County. This includes tourists who will contribute about 40 percent of the tax revenue. Residents benefit 100 percent.

What? A 1/4 of one percent (.0025) sales tax increase to help fund the preservation of “open space and agricultural land,” per NRS. Using only a voluntary program to purchase “conservation easements,” which would allow us to buy and retire the development rights of property and keep the land on the property tax rolls thereby legally preventing development without taking away property rights or losing property tax revenue. County government cannot stop development of the floodplain unless we buy the development rights. This means that every time you spend $100 on taxable goods in Douglas County, it will cost you 25 cents to preserve the open space. If you buy $1,600 worth of taxable goods a month, and that’s a lot, it would cost you $4 a month to save open space. If you shop in Carson City or Washoe County, you already pay a sales tax to preserve their open space. The combination of the sales tax and the conservation easements will legally prevent development of open space.

Where? The primary floodplains along the Carson and Walker Rivers are my personal favorites. NRS allows more. Also noteworthy is the fact that the land targeted in the floodplain is a really bad place to build, and it’s very expensive for the county (read tax increase) to provide services and infrastructure to these areas. These lands are wet, green and open and provide habitat for wildlife and livestock. These lands also provide us with “natural” flood control, storm water drainage, sewage disposal, water recharge, water filtration and storage, scenic vistas and green open space.

When? Now! Development pressure is going to drive up the price of these lands, and we won’t be able to preserve as much as we can at today’s prices. Right now, our dollar will go further than any time in the future. The Carson bypass will be done in 2010.

Why? I like the sense it makes. I can invest a quarter of a penny now to preserve millions of dollars worth of beautiful, functional land and finite natural resources. I like open space. I like watching the wildlife and livestock and crops grow. I know how important rivers are to drainage, water storage and ecosystems. Above all, I realize that these lands provide us with “natural” flood control, storm water drainage, groundwater recharge, storage and filtration, sewage disposal and a rural flavor that cannot be duplicated by engineers with concrete, chlorine and rebar. Concrete and rebar is the alternative to leaving the river alone. If we don’t pass the sales tax issue, you can bet there will be lots of competition for this money, but I don’t believe there is a better investment for the county taxpayer. The cost and tax base needed to duplicate with concrete what we now have provided by nature and run by the ag community is huge! Think San Fernando Valley and the “wash” huge. That will add so many layers of government and huge bureaucracies to support them that I’ll leave here just like I left there. The question is, where do I move to?

I’m happy to pay my quarter of a penny now to keep from having to deal with the never-ending tax increases necessary to support engineered solutions to Mother Nature’s designs, operated by the agricultural community who are the best stewards of the land anywhere. Talk about redundancy and a waste of taxpayer money -redesigning a flood control and drainage system that “naturally” drained a 100-year event in 1997 is the epitome of government waste and bureaucracy building. Trying to duplicate the natural water recharge, filtration and storage systems is beyond any human engineer’s ability; this is something that only Mother Nature can construct and operate. How many of you drink tap water when you visit friends or family in big cities? The concrete and chlorine engineered “solution” costs hundreds of millions of dollars, tastes so bad that almost everyone drinks bottled water or pays for some kind of water filter in their house to refilter the government’s attempt, and failure, to store, filter and distribute potable water. Nature does it best. The wonderful open space on top of these natural systems just happens to be some of the most beautiful land in the state of Nevada.

Vote yes on question No. 1 if you believe Mother Nature is the best engineer on our planet and because you don’t need, or want, five or six new layers of government and bureaucracies to charge you to do what nature and the ag community are doing for free. And, for a limited time only, we can save the beneficial and beautiful open space and ag lands that ride on top of Mother Nature’s handiwork.

n Michael Hayes is a member of the Douglas County planning commission and a Gardnerville resident.