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Utility appealing county’s decision on pond project

Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada is appealing Nye County’s decision to require a conditional use permit to do improvements to the ponds at the old Willow Creek Golf Course.

The appeal will be heard at the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission meeting at 6 p.m. today, at 2100 Walt Williams Drive on the Calvada Eye.

Nye County Planning Director Darrell Lacy issued a final decision Nov. 21 stating the company must obtain a conditional use permit for the improvement work. UICN proposes to build a new five-acre treatment pond, while they remediate an old, contaminated pond treating recycled effluent from their sewer plant. In their master plan for the property the company also plans to rehabilitate pump stations and clean up the property, including the removal of 143 dead trees. Pipelines will be replaced.

UICN acquired 15 of the 16 parcels to the former golf course to recover legal fees in the bankruptcy by former owner Caldera P and G in the summer of 2013. UICN President Wendy Barnett claimed she was told in September 2013 by the county she didn’t need a conditional use permit for the work. Any new buildings, ponds or structures require a conditional use permit, Lacy said, the company can repair an existing pond if they are not expanding it.

Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky took offense to Barnett’s published comments last month that the county was holding up plans to remediate the ponds.

“I’ve offered several times directly and indirectly to Wendy and to Utilities Inc. to offer my assistance because it is solely in my district,” Borasky said. “It affects my constituents greatly, all of them. I don’t seem to get any comments back to sit down and try to work out what little details there are on either of the effluent ponds.

“Nothing gets done over there. There are requirements under our codes and stuff, they’re disputing that now,” he said. “Whoever is right let’s move forward and get the project started.”

Borasky said he’s concerned about the company’s plan to install rapid infiltration basins.

“That affects the groundwater underneath that property just as much as that pond that’s still polluted and not being taken care of properly,” he said.

Last week Barnett replied to Lacy’s Oct. 10 letter — which states in an open space zone any kind of construction requires a conditional use permit — is merely an advisory opinion with his interpretation of the code. Since UICN never applied for a conditional use permit there can be no final decision, she said.

“Furthermore, your letter is a reversal of position on this issue. Only weeks ago you informed us that you could not provide a final answer on the CUP issue because you had not received a CUP application or the final plans for the project,” Barnett said.

Barnett said bodies of water are a permissive use of open space which are not subject to a conditional use permit under Nye County Code. She said Lacy pulled language out of context from another section of Nye County Code regarding grandfathered buildings.

When UICN proposed their remediation plan Sept. 5, 2013 Nye County planner Beth Lee said they would need a zoning review to replace the pump houses, fencing and digging the new ponds; a bulding permit would be needed for electrical work and to erect shade structures; a dust control plan needed to be filed for removing the dead trees and other improvements; a grading permit would be required for digging the new pond and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection requires a surface area disturbance permit for areas larger than five acres.

“Open space zoning provisions are intended ‘to preserve and enhance public and private open, natural and improved park and recreational areas. This includes providing opportunities for outdoor recreation, protecting sensitive or fragile environmental areas,” Barnett wrote, quoting from the county code.

She added, “UICN is attempting to remediate a known, existing and serious environmental hazard and turn a former private golf club into an improved recreational area. UICN’s work at Willow Creek is not only critical to the community’s and Nevada district court’s serious concerns about the condition of the ponds (resulting from the prior owner’s failure to maintain them) but is squarely within the very purpose and intention of the open space zoning provisions.”

The golf course has been closed since November 2008. On June 24, 2009, Nye County issued a letter recognizing the ponds became a health hazard and demanded the situation be addressed. NDEP also issued a finding of alleged violation against the prior owners and the Fifth Judicial District Court issued a permanent injunction mandating the former owner immediately remediate the ponds to bring them into compliance. On Sept. 19, 2012, the district court declared the ponds were “a clear and present danger to the community.”

On Nov. 7, 2012, Jim Scott, the owner of Caldera P and G, the former owners of the golf course, was jailed for 21 days by Senior Judge Bob Rose for failing to follow a district court order to clean up the ponds.

In August, Barnett asked the county not to intervene in their application to the Public Utilities Commission for a permit required under the Utility Environmental Protection Act (UEPA) to remediate the ponds.

Nye County filed a petition to intervene anyway with the PUC on Aug. 6, but withdrew it Aug. 25, after telling the PUC the county and UICN agreed on a course of action to resolve issues and Barnett agreed to appear at a Sept. 16 county commission meeting to answer questions about their plan for the golf course.

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