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Nye County Commission strikes down new subdivision request

A proposed development agreement for the North Canyon Homes subdivision has been shot down by the Nye County Commission but there is opportunity for the applicant, Ken Murphy, to salvage the project if he proves willing to acquiesce to the commission’s desire to see larger lot sizes incorporated into the subdivision design.

As presented during the commission’s April 21 meeting, North Canyon Homes was proposed to take place in three phases with plans calling for a total of 67 homes on 16 acres located at 290, 330, 370 and 410 E. Simkins Road on the northern end of the valley, a housing density of approximately five per acre.

Murphy, a longtime builder in the valley operating Shadow Mountain Construction, said he had gotten involved in the subdivision proposal because he understood that people are looking for residences with smaller lots, as the upkeep on a larger lot is too much for some to handle.

Additionally, the land for the proposed subdivision is adjacent to Simkins Park and located within half a mile of Rosemary Clarke Middle School and a mile of Manse Elementary School, with a post office and gas station just down the road and a short a three-mile drive to the center of town. As such, Murphy said he felt it would be an ideal location for a new subdivision.

The North Canyon Homes project was previously approved by the county several years ago but it had not had a formal development agreement and with the economy tanking in 2008, the project went by the wayside. Now that the economic situation has improved and building is ramping up again, Murphy felt it was a good time to bring the project back.

With water concerns ever-present in the valley, Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox started off the discussion by asking about the water that would be needed. Murphy explained that he had already secured 80 percent of the water rights necessary to develop the project, water rights which have been dedicated to the utility that would service the subdivision.

Nye County Commissioner Debra Strickland jumped in to state that she was not in opposition to the idea itself but she simply did not feel she could support another subdivision, given the water issues the valley is facing.

“If these commissioners sitting here don’t realize that, I feel very sorry for us moving forward. What we’ve got here is paper water rights with no water to support it,” Strickland asserted.

She remarked that she was concerned if the commission were to give the go-ahead to the new subdivision, the Nevada State Engineer’s Office would then view the county as being poor stewards of its water resources and might take action to insert itself into local water management. She also worried that approval would set a precedent for other developers with expired development agreements, which could exacerbate the strain on water supplies.

Commission chairman John Koenig, who has made it clear multiple times in the past that he does not support parceling land into tiny lots, expressed his reluctance for approval as well.

“You all know how I feel about subdivisions. I hear a lot of talk about water rights and that he has them,” Koenig stated, continuing, “A lot of people have water rights. Having water rights doesn’t put water underneath us.”

Taking the opposite stance, Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said she had received several communications from the public expressing their support for the project and therefore, she would put her support behind it as well.

Commissioner Leo Blundo said he himself was on the fence about the subdivision, on the one hand acknowledging the water issues while on the other being sensitive to personal property rights and the amount of public support that had been forthcoming for the project.

Cox agreed that allowing people to do what they wish to with their land is important, she simply was not happy with the lot sizes being proposed. Like Koenig, she too said she would like to see larger lots, suggesting Murphy bring the development agreement request back with decreased housing density.

Murphy asked if quarter-acre lots would be more appealing to the commission and Cox countered with a suggestion of half-acre lots.

“Make the lots bigger Mr. Murphy,” Koenig stated. “Half an acre works.”

Strickland made the motion to reject the development agreement, seconded by Cox. The motion to reject passed 3-2 with commissioners Strickland, Cox and Koenig in favor and Wichman and Blundo against.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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