Letters to the editor, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019
Park project problematic
The special Douglas County Board of County Commissioners meeting on Aug. 6 delivered a stage-managed gift to the Park family. Park was allowed to transfer their residential receiving area from Topaz to Park-owned land where part of the proposed Muller Parkway will run in the east valley. They plan to build 2,500 homes, which will mean about 5,000 new cars on Douglas County streets. This needlessly replaced a perfectly good prior agreement with Park that would have allowed for a right of way for Muller Parkway through Park property.
This could be the worst deal Commissioners Walsh, Rice, and Penzel have ever dealt to county residents. The low cost land in Topaz, a lightly populated area with a great sense of community that would have welcomed new development, would have been the ideal location to build truly affordable housing. The population increase might have given Topaz the clout to get better medical facilities and decent roads.
Instead, East Valley residents will soon be putting up with construction traffic and, to quote Community Development’s message to the Protect East Valley Project: “This plan doesn’t work without some sort of detention facility upstream in the Pinenut wash or in the Buckeye wash. In conjunction with this, we will need to build some sort of retention structures upstream …” These folks thought they had won their gravel pit fight. Cancel the celebration.
The current design for the Muller Parkway bypass is deeply flawed, with multiple access points that will devalue its intended use as a bypass road. If it’s ever built it will be clogged with construction traffic and cars from the 2,500 home project. As one commenter put it, in order to relieve traffic congestion on 395 through town, county government will have to build a bypass around the bypass.
The BOCC meeting notification process appears not to have met legal requirements and it’s possible an open meeting law complaint will yet be filed. But the worst part is the accommodation to Park that will allow 2,500 homes to be built in a semi-rural area where about 66 homes currently exist. This will drop about 7,000 people into the heart of our community, sharply diminishing the rural nature of Douglas County that Commissioner Walsh promised to protect in his campaign for office.
We’re proud that Commissioners Dave Nelson and John Engels fought back against this project, but with Commissioners Walsh, Rice, and Penzel determined to govern against the best interests of Douglas County, the majority wins and the voters lose.
Park deal poorly thought out
I made this comment at the Board of County Commissioners special meeting on Aug. 6 when the Park Ranch Holdings/Topaz Receiving Area swap was being considered. Sadly, the march to urbanize ourselves into a Reno suburb continues apace. Commissioner Rice added his “yes” vote to those of Commissioners Penzel and Walsh, and this poorly thought-through “deal” was approved.
“To all of those who accuse me of being some kind of mastermind who puts commissioners in office who then do my bidding I would point out my husband and I were significant supporters of Chair Barry Penzel during his two runs for office, and I managed Commissioner Walsh’s successful campaign. Considering how much I disagree with their voting records, if what you accuse me of were true, I’d deserve an ‘F’ for my results.
“What my taunters are observing but misapprehending is that I am proud to be a conservative Republican, and my goal is not to establish power for myself, but to get leaders into office who will lead in accordance with that philosophy. Douglas County needs a strong dose of conservative Republican medicine to get its house in order and revive its chances of hanging on to the Nevada individualism and rural attitudes that keep this county the jewel of all of Nevada. Conservatives believe in small government and individual responsibility. We don’t like taxes and think taxes are too high. We believe government should serve the people, not people serve the government.
“A person who runs for commissioner runs as a partisan. The office of county commissioner is deliberately designed to require that a candidate declare loyalty to a political party in order to qualify for the position. But that’s not all. As an integral part of a campaign, the candidate shares what his political philosophy is. So, a candidate can be a Republican, for example, but be for adding social programs and raising taxes. He or she would support government involvement in subsidizing housing and financing projects such as the event center. That would be a progressive Republican.
“So here’s the thing: Every one of the four Douglas County commissioners that I helped elect who is sitting in this room, declared himself to be a conservative Republican, not only repeatedly and emphatically to me, but to the voters. So far, two of the four have remained true to their word. The other two have not. I believe had they revealed to the voters prior to election day their true intentions — to abandon conservative principles and values — they would not be sitting where they are now.
“But hope springs eternal. Despite the recent disappointing progressive votes the two gave for the event center, I still think there’s a chance at least one of them may realize what he owes the voters who put him in office and turn down the poorly thought through giveaway to a powerful special interest that is being considered in this special meeting. Commissioners Nelson and Engels have honored their promises; maybe today Commissioner Penzel or Walsh will, too.”
Too late to reconsider?
A few years back most urban areas experienced a change in the commuter traffic jams. A Google App called WAZE came out that would direct drivers through residential neighborhoods as a way to “beat the traffic.” It created havoc in many areas, with cities putting in road restrictions as a way to fight back. Lately it seems we may have WAZE activated around the Valley. It seems that a lot more out of state drivers, especially those with RVs and sports equipment, are taking the Riverview turn at 395 and coming up Dresserville to Centerville to get to Route 88. The same with traffic using Waterloo from the 395 junction to get to the Kingsbury Grade. All of this takes traffic off of the main thoroughfare. Since so many businesses I believe we all support are on 395 it may make things easier for us, but, it takes away that “tourist income” from those vendors. I do not understand the concept behind Muller Parkway. I would have thought it was to take semi-truck traffic off of the main drag (which I also would have perceived as a state or federal bypass). Instead, the plan seemed to have been to find a bypass for local traffic. How does this affect those businesses on 395 that rely on local traffic? I have never seen a semi stopped at any local restaurant, drive through or business on 395 but it seems that is what the Muller Parkway design was meant to do — keep the trucks on 395. Now, we add 2,500 more homes, plus making other areas “non-floodplain” which could lead to even more growth. Does anyone have detail from the original concept plan from 50 years ago? Perhaps it is time, or maybe too late, to reconsider.
Commissioners failed residents
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners failed our residents by approving the Park Ranch development agreement. Not only did their action allow Park to build 2,500 homes where only 66 were allowed, but they used the legally problematic tactic of “re-locating” receiving area from the Topaz area to the heart of the Carson Valley through a master plan amendment. In the process, the board violated the open meeting law and the requirements for a master plan amendment, without seeking (nor apparently interested in) public opinion on this significant change.
The open meeting law requires the agenda include a “clear and complete statement of the topics to be considered during the meeting” because to do otherwise “would deprive citizens of their right to take part in government.” Agenda item 1 at the Aug. 6 special meeting was: “2019 update to the Douglas County Master Plan Future Land Use Maps, and other properly related items.” In a similar case, the Nevada Supreme Court “held that the Board violated the Open Meeting Law because the agenda was too broad to place the public on notice.”
Nevada Attorney General opinions have stated the “Public body’s use of the phrase ‘and all matters related thereto’ was a violation of the OML because use of the phrase allows the public body to stray into discussion on matters not specifically listed in the item,” and that the “Public body must recognize a ‘higher degree of specificity [for agenda items] is needed when the subject is of special or significant interest to the public,’” as this item certainly was.
Deputy D.A. Ritchie, in defending the board (rather than the OML) admitted that “the county did not use the word ‘amend’ in the title. It said ‘update.’” What he failed to mention is that there is a significant difference between the two words. “Update” is a vague, ill-defined word that suggests informing the board of minor changes that have already been made. A master plan amendment (which the board’s action approved), on the other hand, is a specific term referenced by both state law and Douglas County Code, and has both required findings and noticing requirements. For Ritchie to suggest that the terms may be used interchangeably is absurd. In every previous MPA, the agenda title has used the words “Master Plan Amendment,” has specifically identified the parcels subject to the amendment, and has given written notice to surrounding property owners. None of that happened in this case, which, hence, is a violation of the law.
Deputy D.A. Martin, in addressing the noticing requirements for a master plan amendment, completely failed to mention Douglas County Code 20.20.030 which clearly requires the notification of surrounding property owners of any master plan amendment. She, too, was defending staff rather than standing up for the law.
Mr. Dallaire, the new director of community development, stated that he had spoken about this development plan to “the stakeholders,” naming the town boards of Minden, Gardnerville and Indian Hills, along with MGSD. Sadly, he never sought input from the biggest and most important “stakeholders,” the citizens (and taxpayers) of Douglas County.
It certainly seemed that staff was in a rush to cram this through (without proper notice) before the public discovered how significant a change this would be, and three members of the board were willing to play along. Shame on them.
Thanks for rummage sale support
St. Gall Catholic Church wishes to express many thanks to the following for the success of our annual rummage sale.
The local community for their donations, and purchases, Park Ranch for storage, Record Courier and Nevada Appeal for publishing, Carson Valley Methodist and Shadow Mountain Baptist Church for allowing our customer to park on their properties, China Springs the young men that come to help with loading of heavy items, Sani Hut, Douglas Disposal, Northern Nevada Fence Company, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, PEXA Insurance for providing lunch to our volunteers, Papa Murphy for the delicious Pizza’s, Kerry McCullough from Unitours for water donation, our parishioners who provided the sweets and salads for our lunches and most of all our loyal customers that travel as far away as Salt Lake City, Idaho and California for this wonderful sale.
To all our volunteers who worked so diligently during the hot weather in preparation for two months. We thank you all and may God bless you all abundantly.
Queen Beverly Simmons and Rummage Committee
Congress must act
I’m writing you today to say that Congress is failing the American people in the most egregious way. Their prime directive as public servants is to protect the American people. They’re failing miserably.
They’re failing to protect our elections and failing to protect our very safety when we go to our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, our festivals, our shopping centers, and our schools.
I demand that they pass legislation that makes it a crime to accept help from foreign governments during elections. Our forefathers understood that threat to our democracy. Why doesn’t Moscow Mitch get it? Why has he taken a different view toward Russia lately? Why does he help Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin skirt U.S. sanctions who invested in an aluminum mill in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky? It’s contemptible for any member of Congress not to stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the intelligence community to call this what it is – it’s a threat to subvert American democracy.
I demand that they pass legislation to ban military-style assault weapons from this country. We’ve passed laws to ban tommy guns, didn’t we? Nine people were slaughtered on the streets of Dayton, Ohio in 30 seconds.
Unfortunately, I have first-hand experience with mass shootings. I was there to help pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., that took place on Dec. 2, 2015 where 14 good people were murdered and 22 others were seriously wounded. I personally knew some of those people. I worked with them. But it’s not just the loss of life, it’s the lives that are shattered, it’s the wounded, and the survivors, and their families and their friends and their coworkers and their communities that must bear the pain and loss.
I demand legislation that gives the FBI the tools they need to go after these white extremist terrorists in the same manner that they can go after international terrorist organizations. The FBI is begging for new tools.
The body politic is infected
There is a virus infecting our body politic in this country. I supposed you have noticed it by now. Historically it has made its appearance at various times before. It’s hatred, racial intolerance, and violence against “the other.” Shame on us as a society for producing this condition.
Underlying this current climate is fear. President Trump early on admitted that fear is his source of “real power.” (See Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” page 175.)
Fear is implicitly manifested with the use of the term “white supremacist” connoting a white nationalist who is fearful of white people becoming a minority in this country. This fear underlies and motivates the domestic terrorism we now see.
The big question is whether our democratic form of government will survive another Trump term. The issue is in doubt. I don’t have to point out his pathological behavior again as I have in previous letters to the editor — you’ve now been witness to it for the past two-plus years. Wake up.
John H. Garvin