Gun issue surfaces in Tonopah post-annexation debate

Rejecting yet another proposed change to an open grazing exemption, the Tonopah Town Board voted 5-0 to give its OK to a resolution aimed at reassuring cattle ranchers that a massive annexation making the town one of the USA’s biggest in land size won’t harm their interests.

The measure, adopted by the board at its Nov. 9 meeting, exempts residents within the Tonopah Taxing District but outside a three-mile radius of the original courthouse in the center of town.

The action comes two weeks after Durk Pearson, a 25-year Tonopah area resident, suggested changes in the distance.

Citing a map, he said on Oct. 26 that the town’s proposed four-mile exemption “does not exclude my grazing property out there.”

As a result, the town decided to revise the proposal. When it presented the revisions with a three-mile radius Nov. 9, Pearson presented another map and requested a further revision.

“My property is about 2.9 miles out, rather than three miles,” Pearson told the board. “If you could change that from three to 2.9, it would be great.”

“By my measurements, three miles cuts through the property, the 40 acres,” he said of his land.

Guns, distance and cows

Town Board Chairman Duane Downing said he did not like Pearson’s suggestion. Downing cited a desire to follow an existing town ordinance on another topic — discharging firearms — with the three-mile radius.

“There is precedence for the three-mile radius,” Downing told Pearson. “And for 98 percent of your property, it covers it. I think it’s a reasonable accommodation.”

“We don’t need to muddy the waters and reinvent the wheel here,” Downing said. Downing also described following the existing three-mile distance “a smart move.”

Former Town Board Chairwoman Cindy Kaminski told the board that she supports Downing “100 percent” on not making further changes to the distance.

“I have been on this board for 12 years, and I know exactly where he’s coming from,” Kaminski said. “You don’t want to start making precedents.”

“The three-mile (radius), plus everything else that goes along that has been discussed in the other two meetings, are spot-on because of the fact that you’ve got other regulations that are superseding what we do here in Tonopah anyways,” she said, referring to Nye County and state of Nevada rules.

Pearson questioned “what firing firearms has to do with cows grazing.”

Downing responded, “It’s not that it’s anything in relation to the same thing. It’s just that we’ve set a precedent that we’re making a boundary limit of that three-mile limit from the old courthouse for resolutions like this.”

“So we’re not coming with a new resolution with a different parameter,” Downing added. “We’re just following one that’s already in place, and it makes it a whole lot easier.”

Pearson said, “A different parameter is entirely appropriate for a different purpose.”

“Bullets and cows are two very different things,” Pearson continued. “A cow that’s 2.9 miles away from the old courthouse is not going to bother anybody. Somebody with a (.30.06) shooting toward town from even three miles away or even four miles away, that’s potentially dangerous.”

Change to take place soon

The board then unanimously voted to adopt the three-mile exemption for grazing, effective Nov. 30.

“We’re not coming after you, Durk,” town board member Don Kaminski (married to Cindy Kaminski) said after the vote.

“I know,” Pearson responded. “I’m not worried about you. I’m worried about some damn lawyer from Las Vegas.”

Pearson told the town board in October, “I don’t want somebody (motorist) to run into a cow and then sue me …and (say) ‘Look. It says right there, you can’t have a cow out there, in the Tonopah town ordinances.’”

During the town board discussions Nov. 9, Downing said the exemption resolution didn’t aim to “make an accommodation to a single property owner.”

“It’s to accommodate everyone,” Downing said.

“So following that current (discharging firearms) ordinance on the books, this made more sense this way than trying to find another way to reinvent the wheel,” he added.

In case you missed it

■ The Tonopah Town Board voted 4-0 on Oct. 12 in favor of the annexation, which is estimated to result in the town gaining a projected $250,000 in annual revenue that could be used for services to residents.

■ The projected $250,000 annually to Tonopah would be through additional tax revenue from the rural land in the newly-annexed area, including from SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes solar plant and from possible future mining ventures.

■ Through the annexation, Tonopah is growing from approximately 67 square miles to about 583 square miles, making it one of the largest communities in land size in the continental USA.

Contact reporter David Jacobs at

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