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Dan Schinhofen: Development issue draws scrutiny

A story in the Oct. 30 edition of the PV Times titled, “Mountain Falls request rejected in Pahrump” caught my attention the other day.

While the board voted 4-1 not to allow reduced lot sizes, their arguments for denial have me puzzled.

First, let’s look at Commissioner Donna Cox’s statement about water when she stated, “We still have a water issue in this Valley …” Funny, but when she testified before the state she stated we didn’t have an issue. She also, about two years ago, voted to allow a NEW subdivision for an additional 100 homes because they offered one-acre lots. (No worries that they didn’t have a sewer or water plan.) I was constantly confused when I heard her speak while I was on the board and it seems she is still confusing … at least to me.

What Mountain Falls was requesting was not to build MORE homes than the development agreement they have with the board, it seems that this board just doesn’t want them to build the homes, they are allowed to have, on smaller lots.

Commissioner Strickland made it clear when she said, “Of course you are allowed to have that amount at end of build. We get that. But reducing and reducing lot size is not what we are after here.” She voted to deny a previous map because she wanted the developer to “provide a water plan.” She should know, although she’s only been on the board for almost a year, that they have complied with the plan adopted by the county. I also wonder how her plan has been working to “solve this water issue in one year” as she stated in her campaign.

The last statement by Chairman John Koenig about, “… sucking up more water …” really puzzles me as John is well aware that the amount of homes, at end of build, will not increase the amount of water used, so how in the world are they sucking up “more” water?

With smaller lot sizes you have less outdoor water use. Also, because they are on a utility system, about 60% of the water they use is recaptured.

There are not many actions taken by a previous board that a current board cannot overturn. Among those are contracts like development agreements. Mountain Falls has a development agreement to build out “x” amount of homes. Whether they stick them on postage-size lots or five-acre lots will not add to the amount of water they use, but rather it could end up using less. (Actually, bigger lots are more likely to use more water with landscaping, animals, and keeping down the dust and weeds.)

Elected officials should not bring their personal bias to decisions they make that could result in us (the county) being in violation of a contract. It is clear that Commissioner Cox does that all the time and now it seems that our new commissioner is joining that club. (And here I thought Republicans were supposed to be business-friendly and not try to tell them how to do business.)

When I ran for office in 2006, my stance was not to make Pahrump a “Little Las Vegas.” I voted against the development that Cox voted for a few years back, as we already have approved more lots than we can supply with water under our current conditions. (Check the record before you start to libel me folks.)

I happen to live in a 1,000 square-foot home on 18 acres that my son owns. I am hoping to have each of our children also build out here so we will have a total of four homes on 18 acres with a community well. I am not sure how that will go with this board as it seems to be what they are arguing for, by not allowing Mountain Falls to finish out their contract with no additional homes, but as we have seen this past year, personal preference seems to take precedence over contracts and facts with some of this board.

Last thing here is that this article, while mentioning Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, did not print even one of her statements, which I found puzzling as she has been on the board longer than all the rest of them and knew the history of this project.

I am not advocating for smaller lots in the future, but by allowing Mountain Falls to finish out their project, agreed to with a contract the county signed, while not increasing the number of homes, does not put our water in danger or anyone else who does not choose to buy a home in that subdivision.

There are people that want to live in our wonderful community but do not want an acre, or more, of land to maintain. I am hoping in the future that this board will put their own feelings aside and vote on the issue in front of them. But it is the beginning of the silly season (election year) so I am sure we will be treated to more tortured logic as members try to look like they are saving us from issues that are not issues.

Water is an issue, even when Commissioner Cox didn’t think it was and will remain an issue until the facts are followed, not personal feelings. The rights of private well-owners are not greater than the rights of any other citizen and I say this as a private well-owner. We ALL need to work together to figure that problem out, and not pit private well-owners against others who rely on utility systems.

Dan Schinhofen

Private citizen and domestic well-owner

Editor’s note: Schinhofen is a former Nye County commissioner. (He was defeated in the 2018 primary election by Debra Strickland). Lorinda Wichman made no comment on her opinion of the topic mentioned in this column.

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