The following is a guest post by Mike Lawson. He was a Washoe County Planning Commissioner for District-2 and follows the planning commission.
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions” is a quote first attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Various others, most notably Oliver Wendell Holmes. have also been credited with variations on this quote. Regardless of its origins, this thought was manifested by the Washoe County Planning Commission this past Tuesday (10/1) when they denied the application for a horrific tentative map for the inappropriately named “Pleasant Valley Estates”. It would seem our County Planning commissioners are an ally in the community’s continuing fight against development that does not comply with the area plans that are an integral part of the Washoe County Master Plan.
There were over a dozen concerned and informed citizens that spoke in opposition to the applicant’s plan, but none more eloquent and informed than Bill Naylor representing the Washoe Valley Alliance. Bill, and his wife Marilyn, have been long time advocates for thoughtful development, and both were instrumental in developing the South Areas Plan. Because of Bill’s intimate familiarity with the South Areas Plan he was able to make specific points regarding the applicant’s non-compliance with the plan that guided commissioner Francine Donshick in making her motion to deny. Other citizens, including Delia Greenhalgh, made compelling points regarding traffic impacts, water rights, lot sizes, emergency access, and other legitimate concerns in opposition. It was encouraging to see that while the proposed development was in Steamboat, their neighbors in Pleasant Valley and Washoe Valley took the time to testify in support of another neighborhood.
The commissioners voted unanimously to deny the application, which was encouraging. Kate Nelson, the newly appointed commissioner for the district in which the development was proposed, made a thoughtful comment about noncompliance with the grading on the project. It was good to see she had reviewed the technical merits and had concerns about them. It was however a little disconcerting that there was very little discussion among the commissioners about their thinking in advance of their vote. Beyond Ms. Nelson’s comment, only commissioner Horan observed he believed he could not make the requisite findings, but others offered nothing beyond that. None of the other commissioners revealed anything about their thought process or what specifically concerned them about the application. It would be helpful if they allowed us insight into the affect the testimony had or what deficiencies they saw in the staff report that led them to vote how they did, regardless of what that vote is. Chairman Chesney has historically been thoughtfully vocal in his views on these matters and we can only hope that as he gains more comfort in his new role as chair, he returns to providing the thoughtful insight he shared as vice chair. All-in-all the citizens and the commissioners are to be commended for participating in the process.
We must remain diligent and watch for the appeal that will almost certainly follow. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels and recent successes. We truly can and should be a government by the people and for the people despite the self-serving decisions being made by the current band of thieves we have elected to represent us (with the notable exceptions of Jeanne Herman and Jenny Brekhus)