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Dan Schinhofen: A primer on the highway beautification ordinance

The county commission had a workshop last month on updating the Pahrump Regional Planning District sign ordinance laid out in NCC (Nye County Code) 17.04.

Soon after that it came before the board and they asked planning to do a workshop as they knew there would be many comments from business and the general public. After that it was brought back to the commissioners for a vote and was rejected unanimously.

But wait, it wasn’t quite dead yet, as on the 29th of October there was another workshop with the exact suggested code changes, which were rejected. (I know, kind of confusing isn’t it?) Let me try to give a little history.

In January of 2018 draft sign ordinance changes were brought before the Regional Planning District (RPC) and they did not pass it. It was 10 pages at that time. Leo Blundo was on that board and said that planning needed to, “Look through a rural lens,” as staff suggested using parts of Henderson’s sign ordinance.

It was then to be brought back to them in February but was pulled by the planning director as it “wasn’t ready yet.” It was pulled again in March of 2018 and then showed up finally on the July of 2019 agenda, after the director went to a conference by the International Sign Association (ISA). The draft given to the RPC at that time was now 29 pages and brings us up to date with the two workshops held over the past two months.

The need to update the code was stated as a way for us to comply with the Highway Beautification Act, which is a Nevada Administrative Code (NAC). This was not mentioned in 2018.

When I first took office, we cut code compliance officers, as we had budget shortfalls. About 2014 we put one back on and she was buried just with the current codes and sign ordinance.

Planning began to enforce the sign ordinance in December 2017 and I applauded their effort. Again, with one officer it was too much, so we added another code enforcement person before I left office.

So now, here we are spending hours of staff time and our tax dollars having “workshops” and getting nowhere nearer to complying with the NAC. Even the fact that these suggested revisions only deal with Pahrump seems to be lost on some. Amargosa, Beatty, and Tonopah are also on state highways and yet this “bill” does not address those towns. (I am not suggesting we do, just wondering why they were left out.)

Maybe the only reason we are wasting staff time and taxpayer dollars is so that the bureaucrats can feel like they are doing their jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I had great respect for our staff and think I worked well with them, but why are we wasting time and money on something that we do not even have the means to enforce?

Here is the real rub to all of this. The county now has two code enforcement officers and they are buried trying to enforce our current codes. The code cannot be left so vague so that each new director can “interpret” it whichever way they want, including things such as Christmas lights and signs on vehicles.

If planning can identify a gap in our code which makes it hard to enforce, then just bring that forward and stop trying to make us comply with International Sign Association recommendations that do not fit our small community.

I always said, don’t just gripe but bring a solution with your complaint, so here it is: reference NAC’s and NRS’s that have to do with highway beautification and tell NDOT to enforce their highway codes, while we concentrate on all the codes we currently can’t seem to enforce.

The last thing is, once we sign on as commissioners, we need to back up code enforcement when they bring us a violation. This would include the DA’s office working with the commission and code enforcement to ensure that what we do adopt is legal and enforceable.

Just my two cents from the cheap seats.

Dan Schinhofen is a former Nye County commissioner.

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