Sustainable Growth Initiative Process vs Reality (Fact or Fiction)
When a critical issue is facing Douglas County, such as the Sustainable Growth Initiative (SGI), and the broader issue of how to properly manage growth in Douglas County, I believe it is my responsibility as one of your five county commissioners to take this opportunity to provide information on this issue from my perspective.
Needless to say, I am extremely concerned about the type of information being put out by members of the SGI. A number of the statements made by their committee members are incorrect and highlight the spin-game they have placed on this subject.
Fact No. 1: In April 1996, Douglas County adopted the county’s master plan. This adoption took place after several years of work, numerous community meetings, and spending many thousands of dollars. The development of the master plan was a monumental task, and as a document designed to guide the physical development of Douglas County, has served us very well.
Others and I have written on this topic in the past, and I honestly believe if you look at the actions taken, you will find that the master plan is working to meet the needs of Douglas County. I must also note that most if not all of the individuals who initiated the SGI process were not Douglas County residents at the time the master plan was adopted, did not participate in the process and do not have a high level of understanding of the master plan and what it is intended to do.
This is obvious, as they continue to confuse the development code and its requirements related to specific project approval, to that of land use designations as provided for under the master plan.
I recognize the right of any resident, property owner or business owner within the county to express their concerns regarding development activity in Douglas County. However, it is frustrating when the issue of the master plan vs. development activity is continually confused by those supporting strict growth controls within Douglas County.
Fact No. 2: The master plan does include a growth management element. Representatives of SGI would have you believe that Douglas County has ignored this element and that it has not been implemented. In fact, a number of components of the growth management element have been implemented, including 1) establishing minimum development standards, 2) establishing requirements for adequate public facilities, 3) establishing urban service areas, 4) allowing for the clustering of development, 5) establishing the transfer of development rights program, and 6) supporting the acquisition of development rights. All of these are sections within the growth management element, and all have been implemented at the County level.
The master plan requires that the building permit allocation system not be implemented until a capital improvements plan for Douglas County is adopted, and growth rates indicate a need for such a program. At this time the county has a capital improvements program that does not require the building permit allocation system to be put in place, nor does the growth rate of the county indicate a limit, especially a limit of 280 units per year, be established.
The proposed initiative is substantially different from the building permit allocation called for in the master plan, and would serve to undermine the goals and objectives identified in the county’s growth management plan. The county has and continues to look at the amount of available land for building, the number of permits issued, the impact on natural resources, including ground water, and our ability to meet infrastructure needs. If we are going to limit the number of building permits issued in Douglas County in any given year, it should be done in accordance with the master plan and linked to reasonable conditions such as a true ground water study, which is a limited natural resource, and the necessary study to demonstrate what it can accommodate over time.
Fact No. 3: Mr. Garvin, the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee Co-Chair, recently stated, “The initiative would put the power in the hands of the taxpayers who are not subject to the influence of special interest groups.” I would suggest that the Sustainable Growth Committee is just that, a special interest group, one that is pushing its particular interest through the political process. Having had the privilege of running twice for elected office I have not seen, nor have I received campaign contributions from any special interest groups, unless of course, you include friends and family as special interest groups. By that definition, don’t we all have our own special interest in where we live, work and raise our families?
Fact No. 4: At a recent Sierra Nevada Association of Realtors’ breakfast meeting held at the Carson Valley Inn on July 10, Mr. Garvin stated the SGI group, which he co-chairs, would be willing to participate in an economic impact study prior to Douglas County voters going to the polls in November.
Subsequently, at a July 31 Northern Nevada Development Authority breakfast meeting, also held at the Carson Valley Inn, when asked publicly that very same question, Mr. Garvin stated, “We will not participate. The other side has the money. We don’t.” I find it very frustrating that the group is willing to participate on one day and then not on another day. I also find it difficult to believe that they do not have the money, given the number of people that have expressed support for the initiative, and those who initiated the petition. In particular, I believe that Ms. Sturgis, who also serves on the SGI committee, has a substantial amount of wealth, and one may look at this as being a moneyed interest that is supporting this initiative.
Fact No. 5: During a regularly scheduled Board of Commissioners’ meeting, which took place on Aug. 1, Mr. Garvin stated that through his personal interpretation of Nevada law, the Board of Commissioners could no longer hold additional hearings on this critical issue. With all due respect, Mr. Garvin, the citizens of Douglas County have an elected District Attorney, Mr. Scott Doyle, providing legal counsel to the Board. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mr. Doyle takes a very conservative approach when it comes to legal matters brought before the Board. If Mr. Doyle thought the Board of Commissioners was overstepping its bounds by holding further hearings on the ballot initiative, I firmly believe he would have advised us in that manner. Mr. Garvin, I don’t believe it is fair to the voters of Douglas County to try and out-lawyer them from additional public hearings.
Over the past 5-1/2 years, other members of the Board of County Commissioners and I have encouraged public meetings, discussions and dialogue on many issues facing our county. It is no different for the debate on growth, and we will continue to welcome public discussion on this matter.
n Steve Weissinger represents Douglas County Commission District No. 1.