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Burke: Growth and change are inevitable

Growth and change are inevitable to our rural communities in a state that is growing and seeing its main population centers become more expensive and crowded.

What we do to manage that growth and its effect on our rural community is the real challenge for those of us that live in those rural areas.

You only need to look at some of the rural areas around Reno to see how growth can negatively affect a community. On the east side of Washoe Valley between Reno and Carson City is the community of New Washoe City. The west side of Washoe Valley has long been home to wealthy residents and expensive homes on large estates.

In sharp contrast, the east side has been a bedroom community for Reno and a place for families to raise children in a rural setting. A 7-11, a couple of local bars, a local auto repair shop, a deli and pizza parlor attached to the local hardware/feed store and that was about it for businesses in the area.

But Reno or Carson City are only a convenient 20-minute drive to more services and shopping. Most homes are on at least one acre and dogs, chickens, goats, and lots of horses were throughout the community. Kids often would head to Washoe Lake or up to the hills to hike, ride quads or horses.

But a few years ago, things began to change. The area is within Washoe County, which is dominated by Reno and its residents. Reno has become simultaneously more liberal politically and yet more regulated with the influx of new residents from out of state.

Many new regulations have been passed that affect the residents of the entire county surrounding Reno.

New Washoe City and its rural residents suddenly found themselves with restrictions on dogs, cats, horses, sheep, birds, goats, and a host of other regulations that essentially stopped their open and rural lifestyle in its tracks.

Many longtime residents are now moving out of Washoe County altogether to avoid these restrictions to their rural lifestyle. Why did this happen? In the case of east Washoe Valley, the services and businesses did not cause a change to the rural lifestyle, it was the culture change in Reno that had far-reaching effects on the rural residents of Washoe County.

Just over the mountain, we have an even larger population base that potentially could impact our community. As home prices soar and Vegas becomes more crowded, families will be looking for alternatives to living in Las Vegas. It is inevitable that some of those will look to Pahrump as a place to live.

Contrary to what some believe, that isn’t necessarily the end of the world for Pahrump.

There is a small but vocal segment of our population that is against any sort of change regardless of the benefit. Their hope is that if they can somehow keep Pahrump under a protective glass dome, our rural and open lifestyle will stay forever preserved in some sort of time capsule.

I understand their intent and agree with the goal of maintaining the freedoms we now enjoy. But it’s not realistic to try to obstruct everything and hope it will keep people from moving here. They are moving here regardless.

We have some advantages that those in Washoe County didn’t have. We are not part of Clark County and therefore we don’t have to deal with that county’s politicians and their agendas, which are even more liberal than Reno’s.

One only needs to look at what the politicians from Las Vegas have introduced as new bills to this year’s State Legislature to understand how different our points of view are from theirs.

That in of itself gives us a much better opportunity to shape our future than the residents of east Washoe Valley had because of their close ties to Reno.

We can avoid adding regulations that restrict our rural lifestyle and carefully consider the consequences of those regulations that are enacted. We should educate new residents on the benefits of living a rural lifestyle without needless restrictions.

There are excellent suburban style neighborhoods here with HOAs that appeal to the homeowner looking for that type of residential living. We also have homes on one-plus-acre parcels with very few restrictions. We have RV residents, mobile home and modular residents, apartment residents, and even some farming and ranching still left here. There can be a mix of homes and lifestyles without creating “one size fits all” rules.

We should embrace businesses and services that will benefit our area and make Pahrump just a little bit easier to live in without having to drive an hour to Vegas just to buy clothes or shoes and see a movie.

It’s not the businesses or the new services that change an area, it’s the people and what rules they want to bring with them when they move here.

By having more businesses and services, we actually can add to the quality of life here without a huge change to our rural lifestyle.

After all, it’s the people and what rules they allow to be implemented that make the real difference in preserving our Pahrump community.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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