Park project not in public interest |

Park project not in public interest

by Jim Slade

The Park Ranch Holdings proposed development for up to 2,500 homes near the future Muller Parkway is not in the public interest, nor does it meet the required findings for a master plan amendment. The designation of this 1,044 acres as receiving area (up to 16 homes per acre), for starters, does not meet the over-arching goals of the master plan emphasized in its introduction: to “keep our rural character” and that “new development should pay its own way.”

A development of this size would almost certainly require construction of a new elementary school, at an estimated cost of $15-$20 million. Existing taxpayers would have to pay for most of that. Additionally, to complete the construction of Muller Parkway, the county is hoping to receive a federal build grant, for which it has applied. Those grants, however, are quite difficult to obtain, and if the county does not get the grant, our taxpayers will be on the hook for that $25 million as well.

The proposal also fails to meet the required finding that there be a demonstrated need for more receiving area. There are already about 2,000 homes that can currently be built in approved developments in Minden and Gardnerville, all of them within the town and urban service area boundaries, and most of them in receiving areas. The Park Ranch property is outside of both those boundaries, and hence sprawl. Park Ranch is pretending that they don’t have to meet that finding, since they are using the legally problematic approach of “swapping” receiving area from Topaz to the Carson Valley. That is absurd. The demonstrated need, in this case, clearly refers to the Carson Valley.

County Commissioner Larry Walsh, in supporting the development, stated last month that the Minden/Gardnerville Plan for Prosperity identifies this area as appropriate for future growth. What he ignored, however, is that plan specifically states future growth should occur only after the towns are more than 85% built-out, and that they are currently only 60-65% built-out. Hence, to approve this receiving area now would be contrary to the Plan for Prosperity. And, while Walsh indicated there was residential properties on “three sides” of the proposed development, he failed to state that the border with existing homes was less than 30% of the total, that nearly half of that was with 5- and 10- acre parcels, and that the surrounding land use was primarily agricultural. Obviously, he was “cherry-picking” his “facts” to support his pre-determined decision to back this project.

The proposed new receiving area would certainly negatively impact the availability, adequacy and level of service of public improvements. The addition of up to 2,500 additional homes, along with the nearly 2,000 already approved, (an added total of 10,000+ new residents) would undoubtedly make traffic worse of Highway 395 through the towns, not better. Minden/Gardnerville Sanitation District has not indicated that they will serve the 2,500 homes. Here in the desert water is always an issue. Some wells, particularly in Ruhenstroth and East Valley, have already had issues; adding 10,000-plus new residents would exacerbate those problems. Once we start drawing down our aquifer, we are in deep trouble.

When this item first came before the Planning Commission, they voted unanimously to deny the receiving area swap. They should do so again. Not only would this receiving area in the Carson Valley, which is outside both the town and urban service area boundaries, be contrary to the public interest, it also fails to meet the required findings, and would merely be a giveaway to special interests. Residents should try to attend the upcoming master plan public workshops, as well as planning commission and county commissioner meetings to express their concerns.

Jim Slade is a Foothill resident.