Saying goodbye to Jack, ‘Bo the Builder’
Douglas County lost a valued, respected and well-liked citizen in October: Jack Van Dien. After a successful career with Ford and Chrysler in Detroit, he spent the next three decades working for Chrysler overseas. He retired to Incline Village in 1992, and then moved to the Carson Valley more than 15 years ago. He moved here for the same reasons that so many people have: scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, open space, and the small-town atmosphere.
Jack volunteered as a small business consultant with SCORE, and was an active member of the local Lions Club. He was probably best known, however, for his involvement with local political issues. He was a regular attendee at county commission meetings, where he often spoke in public comment. He also wrote numerous letters-to-the-editor at the Record-Courier, including many conversations with his fictional friend “Bo the Builder.”
Jack never advocated for any issue that might benefit him personally. To the contrary, he always spoke up for what he believed was in the best interest of the citizens of Douglas County as a whole. As a tribute to Jack, I’d like to have one last conversation with his friend Bo.
“Hey, Bo, I haven’t seen you in a while. Why the sad face?” “Well, for starters,” replied Bo, “county government just seems to get more and more dysfunctional. Between the failed high-level hires, the ‘tiregate’ scandal, the Jack’s Valley waterline mess, the Johnson Lane flooding issues, and the sorry state of so many of our roads, you have to wonder what’s happening. It all seems to be caused by poor planning, flawed judgment, lack of oversight, and unwillingness to take responsibility. Things just seem to be getting worse, while the county approves more and more development.”
“I thought development had slowed down a lot in the last decade,” I said. “It did,” answered Bo, “but now it’s starting up again. Did you see how many Master Plan Amendments the County Commissioners approved recently? Two of them alone allow more than 480 multi-family units on adjacent lots that are surrounded by commercial land. While it may not end up being that many units, as you know, Master Plan Amendments cannot be conditioned, so it could be.”
“I thought I heard that we could use some more multi-family housing,” I asked. Bo replied: “That may be true, but the Commissioners yet again seem to think that if some is good, then a lot must be great. It’s just too much density for that location near the corner of Lucerne and Ironwood. The traffic will be a nightmare. They’ll have to put in yet another stoplight on 395. And a lot of the traffic will end up going through La Costa, which is why so many of their residents expressed their concerns. It seems like some of the commissioners won’t be happy until every intersection with 395 has a stoplight!”
“But some workforce housing is a good thing, right?” Bo responded: “We could probably use some more ‘workforce’ housing, but there’s no guarantee at all that any of these units will be affordable to our teachers and new deputies, for instance. They may end up being homes and condominiums that are too expensive for the average worker. And don’t get me started on all the goals and policies of the Master Plan that the commissioners ignored. Just to name a few: preserving the ‘small town atmosphere’ of Minden, showing a ‘demonstrated need’ for that much multi-family housing, the negative effects on traffic & the level of service on our roads, and being compatible with the land use (all commercial) and actual use (mostly vacant) of the adjacent properties. It just seems like ‘spot zoning,’ which is never a good idea.”
“One more thing,” added Bo, “I really miss my old friend Jack.” “A lot of us do, Bo,” I replied. “A lot of us do.” Rest in Peace, Jack.