Commissioner Views, 2017

Following the approval of the tentative map for Ascente by the Planning Commission (6/6/17), I requested meetings with each commissioner to see if I could persuade any to oppose the Ascente project.  I had a brief presentation in a binder.  These are my notes from these meetings.  They are not verbatim, I made no recording of the conversations.

Commissioner Robert Lucey (6/28/17)

  • He said “I was elected on a platform to approve any development that is safe and sustainable.”
  • Growth is necessary to keep taxes low (due to the Nevada property tax law that has higher rates for newer homes than older ones with the same market value).
  • He doesn’t think that the requirement to maintain the views in the Forest Area Plan is important.
  • He is concerned about fire evacuation, flooding risk and traffic (he recused himself when it was reviewed by the Board of County Commissioners).

Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler (7/13/17)

  • She encouraged EDAWN to bring in more companies and jobs and then the county had to find a way to build all the new housing needed.
  • I pointed out that the new housing is luxury housing while the demand is for affordable housing.  She said that is the developer’s problem.
  • I asked how we avoid becoming like Vegas or Phoenix if we bring in a lot of companies and jobs and then suffer urban sprawl.  She had no solution.
  • She likes the beauty of the Great Basin and the tourism it brings, but thinks it’s fine to build on the Steamboat Hills.

Commissioner Kitty Jung (7/27/13)

  • She believes that the Nevada property tax rates are like a ponzi scheme driving indiscriminate development.  The county is trying to pay it’s bills with revenue from an expanding base.
  • She is concerned that Reno may expand to become like Vegas or Phoenix, but her only solution is to select development programs carefully.  She had just said that we needed a lot of development to maintain the tax revenue.
  • She says the county has little opportunity to restrict the developers since the Nevada Supreme Court has sided with developers claiming that restrictions constitute a “taking” of their property.  So, she is loath to make demands on developers.
  • She thinks homeowners should work with the developers to get what they want.  This is ironic since her idea is that they might plant larger landscape trees when they should add a road to handle the increased traffic.
  • She’s not concerned that the developers are building luxury homes when the demand is for affordable housing.  That’s the developer’s problem.
  • All commissioners take campaign contributions from developers.  There’s no point in making an issue of it.

Commissioner Vaughan Hartung (7/12/17)

  • He is excited about development and not concerned about the negative consequences.
  • He said that development must continue even if the views are spoiled.
  • He said that someday our zoning might allow for higher density housing which would allow us to subdivide.  He thinks that would be a benefit.
  • The developers have the right to build on their property.  The county needs to be reasonable in their requirements.

Commissioner Jeanne Herman (6/30/17)

  • She is outnumbered by the others who are more pro-development.
  • She wishes she had an ally to argue against bad development projects.
  • She wants to stay on the Regional Planning Commission, but the others can vote her off if she doesn’t go along with them.
  • She financed her own campaign for $17,000.
  • She is not confident that the county staff isn’t favoring the developers.
  • She is concerned about the issues of traffic and fire regarding the Ascente project.