Proposed Park agreement a bad deal
The proposed Park Ranch Development Agreement is not in the county’s best interest. The fatal flaw is that it would allow 2,500 homes, an increase of nearly 40 times over the currently allowed 66 homes. That is unacceptable to most residents. The construction of Muller Parkway, if the county can even afford to do so, is not sufficient reason for approval. While the Muller “bypass” is a good goal, it is not worth this trade-off.
Muller Parkway has been viewed as a bypass, with the goal of alleviating traffic congestion, particularly on Highway 395 through the towns. Yet, from its inception, it would ban truck traffic. To consider allowing 2,500 homes (approximately 7,000 people) on one section of Muller Parkway would be self-defeating, since it would likely cause more traffic congestion (not less), and would lower the quality of life for our residents. Even more homes on the other developments along Muller would make matters even worse.
The availability of adequate water, as always, is an additional concern. We are already using the estimated annual recharge, meaning that added use will begin to deplete our aquifer, causing more and more wells to go dry. We already have approved developments, which would allow for the building of nearly 3,000 additional homes, almost all of which is “infill,” where it should be. The Park Ranch proposal would be unwanted sprawl.
It has been repeatedly shown that growth doesn’t pay for itself, so it also would create an undue burden on existing taxpayers. It would likely create needs for another school, more sheriff’s deputies, more county employees, more road maintenance, and many other costs, without providing sufficient added revenues to pay for those costs.
County residents have repeatedly voiced their support for our Master Plan: maintaining our agricultural lands, open space, and our rural character. The Master Plan states that agricultural land use designation (as the subject property currently has) is “encouraged to remain in this use in the future.”
The current agreement with Park states that the county is obligated to construct Muller Parkway within seven years of the recording of its dedication. Since Park never dedicated the right of way to the county, that seven years has yet to begin. Up until now that has been the county’s position, and there is no reason that it shouldn’t continue to be. The fact that Park Ranch has sued Douglas County, claiming that the county has defaulted on its obligation, is irrelevant. There is no reason to accede to Park’s request, which is not in the public interest.
The county apparently has submitted a BUILD grant application to obtain federal funding for the county’s obligations to construct potions of Muller Parkway. Yet the county cannot count on receiving one of those grants, as they are highly contested and difficult to obtain. Absent a BUILD grant, how does the county propose to pay for the road construction, with estimates as high as $100 million? Stating that the county has budgeted $500,000 toward it seems like a cruel joke. How many feet of Muller Parkway do they think that would pay for? Meanwhile, the county claims to have no money for another sheriff’s deputy, and very little to put toward better road maintenance or a new, much-needed Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. The commissioners would be doing a disservice to county taxpayers to approve the proposed agreement with Park Ranch.
The agenda item states that both NRS and county code allow the board to amend the current agreement. While that may be true in the narrowest sense, it is not true in this case. Since the proposal plans to change the master plan land use from agricultural to receiving area, that, by definition, would be a master plan amendment. The only thing that county code says about amending development agreements is that they “shall be reviewed pursuant to the procedures … for a new application.” That would require that this be identified as a master plan amendment, and be heard first by the Planning Commission.
Park Ranch has also come up with a novel idea on how to avoid having to apply for a master plan amendment: they plan to “relocate” receiving area designation from 1,044 acres in the Topaz area to the Carson Valley. Not only is that unacceptable to county residents, but there is nothing in state law or county code that allows such an action. The Planning Commission, when they considered that “relocation” on July 16, unanimously denied it. The county commissioners should do the same.
If you are concerned about excessive growth, sprawl, water, taxes and the legally problematic tactics Park is seeking to employ, you should e-mail or telephone the county commissioners, or come to the Aug. 1 meeting to express your opinion.
Jim Slade is a Foothill resident.