The lengthy dispute over required paperwork to clean up contaminated ponds at a former Pahrump golf course was finally settled Friday heading off litigation and allowing park development plans to move forward.
Following a 5 – 2 vote of approval, the Nye County Planning Commission granted Utilities, Inc. of Central Nevada a waiver to begin the cleanup sans a conditional use permit, which was at the heart of the dispute.
The proposal of the waiver did not come without objection. Planning commission member Bob King said he had a difficult time allowing Utilities, Inc. to avoid compliance with rules that other applicants must follow. “This will set a precedent,” he said.
Assistant District Attorney Daniel Young said that Nye County was headed toward litigation over the definition of a body of water in explanation of the company’s contested need for a conditional use permit, which has long delayed the cleanup of the property.
Nye County applied for the waiver of the permit, Young said, because the utility’s application would have resulted in their acknowledgment that a conditional use permit was required. Most of the proposed remediation work, 90-percent of it, did not require a conditional use permit, he said. The portion that did require a permit, the county contended, was the expansion of one of the effluent ponds.
The point of contention was whether the expansion was considered an existing use or a grandfathered use. Utilities, Inc. has maintained that the expansion was a permissive use. The county’s position was that it is a grandfathered use which required a conditional use permit. “We got stuck in our respective positions.” Young said.
The resolution that both parties agreed upon was the issuance of a waiver, applied for by the county, so neither party was technically forced to concede their position. Neither party has disputed the necessity for remediation of the property.
Utilities, Inc. President Wendy Barnett outlined the parameters of the cleanup and development project which includes the expansion and partitioning of a receiving pond, which would allow individual effluent ponds to be taken offline for maintenance. Barnett said that Utilities, Inc. will again appear before the planning commission with plans to construct rapid infiltration ponds, as part of the development plan for the property.
An assessment of the 160-acre property’s irrigation and percolation system resulted in the discovery of a costly repair and replacement project, which Utilities, Inc. has decided not to move forward with. Instead, she said, as part of the second phase of the project, rapid infiltration ponds will be constructed, if permission is granted by Nevada’s Public Utility Commission, for a modification of their integrated resource plan.
Utilities, Inc. has filed appropriate paperwork with the state regulator advising them of their intention to request a rate increase for all sewer users, to fund the project.
The Public Utilities Commission has scheduled a consumer session, for public comment on the issue on Wednesday, March 4 at 6 p.m. at Nye County Board of County Commissioners’ chambers located at 2100 E. Walt Williams Drive in Pahrump.
As a condition to the waiver, Utilities, Inc. must apply for a conditional use permit or development agreement for further work on the property within six months of approval of the public utility commission, remediation of the existing ponds must start within six months of receiving approval from the Public Utilities Commission, submission of copies of the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection quarterly reports to Nye County and respond to substantiated complaints of effluent pond odor with water samples testing within 24-hours of receipt of written notice of the complaint from Nye County officials.
Concluding the meeting, requests for action on the appeal of the zoning administrator decision and request for issuance of a conditional use permit on the construction and expansion of an effluent handling facility were withdrawn by Nye County.
Following the meeting, Barnett said, “UICN is excited to begin the remediation of the hazards which could impact our health and welfare, and even more excited to continue our work with the community to turn this 160-acre property in the center of our community to something of value for the community.”
* Editor’s note: On Jan. 30 we incorrectly stated that the Public Utilities Commission hearing was Wednesday, March 6. The actual date is Wednesday, March 4, at 6 pm.