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Reduction of area planning zone opposed

The planning department is recommending against reducing the size of the Pahrump Regional Planning District, when it comes up to a vote by the Nye County Commission Tuesday.

Bill 2013-26 would reduce the size of the planning district from 373.04 square miles to 231.46 square miles, a reduction of 37.95 percent.

Principal Planner Steve Osborne, in a memo to the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission, rattled off a litany of benefits to residents and property owners living in the service area of the PRPD: improved air quality; conservation of water resources; protecting neighborhoods and rural areas from incompatible development; providing an efficient arrangement of land uses, transportation facilities and flood control facilities; and maintaining and increasing property values.

On the negative side, Osborne said there would be no control over how property is developed, no control over outdoor lighting, no limits on signs and no control over building heights or setbacks in areas removed from the district.

RPC member Bill Dolan said the Pahrump Town Board voted 4-1 not to reduce the size of the district, only Town Board Chairman Harley Kulkin, who lives in Johnnie, asked the RPC to move forward with the bill. The RPC Dec. 11 voted unanimously to recommend commissioners not reduce the size of the district.

But two county commissioners attending the RPC meeting supported the bill.

“There’s areas that we look at every day and we travel past every day and we say gee whiz, those areas nothing is happening in and nothing has happened for 15, 20 years. Not only that, it’s areas that aren’t really buildable in many cases. So why would we have the RPC look at those areas and have them under control when nothing is going to happen there?” Commissioner Frank Carbone asked.

Carbone added most of the land that would be removed is under U.S. Bureau of Land Management control. He said it would reduce the amount of land the county has to regulate for dust control.

County Commissioner Butch Borasky said, “government doesn’t do a very good job with most everything it does. There’s one reason, that’s good enough alone. No. 2, there’s no road system up in there so the chances of somebody building up there are slim to none and if they do they’re going to have a real hard time getting in or out,” Borasky said. He added in times of scarce water resources someone would have to find enough water for a large development.

RPC Chairman John Koenig countered, “it doesn’t really matter if we control, there’s nothing to control. Why would I want to see staff spending the money, changing maps, changing God knows how many documents, worry about dust control, worrying about water, etc., etc.”

RPC member Bob King said North Highway 160 is the gateway to Pahrump Valley. Visitors coming to town could see junkyards and old, single-wide mobile homes from Clark County. He reminded the RPC about a complaint over a business owner who was dumping animal waste, oil and grease in a pit in Amargosa Valley, outside the district.

“What is the impetus of the thought of doing this? What sparked either one of you gentlemen to bring this issue up and I still, gentlemen, I have not received a satisfactory response,” King said.

Carbone said Nye County has land use requirements, like the development agreement with First Solar to build a 65-megawatt solar plant in Amargosa Valley. He added junkyards could still be built in the PRPD.

When Two Brothers Junk owners Sergio and Oscar Gonzalez in Johnnie were cited by code compliance last year for expanding onto an adjacent parcel that wasn’t grandfathered into the regulations without paving it, the question was raised before the RPC why that area was even in the PRPD.

In a Sept. 24 memo to County Manager Pam Webster, Planning Director Bobby Lewis said reducing the size of the planning district would exclude numerous storm water detention basins proposed as part of a $396,946 Pahrump regional flood control master plan, presented by Bureau Veritas and adopted by county commissioners Sept. 1, 2009.

In addition, Lewis said the Pahrump Streets and Highways Capital Improvement Plan has the same boundaries as the planning district and the Pahrump master plan, adopted in 2004.

“Reduction of the area of the PRPD would result in a loss of county control over large areas of land where significant proposed flood control improvements are planned — making it more difficult for the county to coordinate development and oversee construction of flood control improvements,” Lewis wrote.

However the county commission hasn’t adopted any of the recommendations of the Bureau Veritas study. It outlined $315 million in improvements, to be funded by residents in a General Improvement District who would pay $180 per acre, but former Regional Planning Commission member Carrick “Bat” Masterson said that would eliminate the need to buy flood insurance at $300 per year.

A series of dams along Spring Mountain washes would cost $210 million, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could split the cost. Culverts under Highway 160 would funnel water through channels into various retention basins that could hold 15,806 acre feet of water at a cost of $75 million.

A smaller PRPD would also result in a smaller geographic area where impact fees can be collected, Lewis said, resulting in less funding for road improvements, parks, fire and law enforcement facilities. He said it could affect a proposed project to extend Thousandaire Boulevard to Highway 160, which would no longer be within the PRPD service area and impact fees may have to be returned to the developer.

Then Lewis raised the Memorandum of Understanding with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to avoid Nye County being designated a non-attainment area for air quality by the EPA, Lewis said. It uses the present PRPD boundaries.

Under the MOU Nye County agreed to prohibit new unpaved parking areas; prohibit open burning of refuse and rubbish; require dust control plans for disturbing more than a half acre of land; and require vacant lot owners to stabilize parcels by applying gravel, water or paving.

Walt Kuver, a member of the Basin 162 groundwater management committee, said their plan needs to cover as much area of potential development in Pahrump Valley as possible, including possible improvements at Front Sight Firearms Institute in the south and the Pahrump Valley Airport site.

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