The town of Tonopah is on the road to becoming one of the continental United States largest town in land size.
The Tonopah Town Board voted 4-0 on Oct. 12 for the annexation, adding 515 square miles to the 67 square-mile town.
The move is estimated to result in the town gaining a projected $250,000 in annual revenue. The funds would be through existing taxes linked to the rural land, including from SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes solar plant and possible future mining ventures.
The tax revenue would be used to provide services to Tonopah, its residents and to help the town prepare for a financially secure future.
“We’re doing what we can to help shore up Tonopah,” Town Board Chairman Duane Downing said shortly after the vote following a nearly 45-minute public hearing.
Approval came despite concerns raised by some Nye County residents, including those from rural areas.
Their concerns included whether cattle could continue to graze, run at-large or need to be chained or leashed under existing town, Nye County or state ordinances.
Also cited were open range issues, potential animal trespassing, impounding and destruction issues, the potential of legal issues if cattle were struck by motorists and the threat of potential civil lawsuits resulting from the annexation.
“That doesn’t sound very good,” longtime Nye County rancher Joe Fallini said as he read the details of various existing animal rules already on the books and potential consequences for violators.
Fallini, whose family’s Twin Springs Ranch dates back to the 1860s, cautioned the town board about property rights.
“I want to stress to the board here that there is a lot more out there than what you think on property rights,” said Fallini, who also represents other regional cattlemen on a state grazing board.
“If you’re going to take it,” Fallini said of the annexation, “probably to be able to do it right, you’re going to have to fence it. If you fence it, you’re going to have to pay for everybody’s grazing rights and water rights.”
“You’re in a very ticklish spot here,” Fallini cautioned. “You’re going to put a lot of people at stake.”
Fallini later thanked the board, adding: “I’m not trying to bully you or anything else. I’m trying to protect the livestock industry.”
Durk Pearson, a 25-year town resident, also expressed concern over the annexation for the town, which has under 3,000 residents.
“I think that this is a big mistake because I think there’s going to be some unintended consequences that will be extremely expensive to the town of Tonopah,” Pearson said.
“You are putting Tonopah at a terrible risk because there’s no way that Tonopah can win a lawsuit justifying this incorporation,” Pearson added.
The town responded that its plan had been reviewed by the Nye County District Attorney’s Office and that potential issues with land owners such as SolarReserve had been addressed.
In the weeks before the vote, the town tried to assure residents that land uses, such as grazing, would not change on the newly-annexed land.
Prompted by a suggestion later in the Oct. 12 meeting from Pearson and as a sign of good faith, the town board agreed to take up a future town resolution. The measure would offer an exemption involving at-large animals in the newly-annexed area.
A closer look
The majority of parcels in the newly-approved annexation area are owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Tonopah Solar Energy (SolarReserve), Liberty Molly, and patent mining claims among others, the Nye County Assessor’s Office said.
Officials stated that private property owners would not be affected by the annexation because their land was carved out of the annexation area.
These would include homeowners, who earlier this year had objected to a proposed larger annexation that would have seen Tonopah grow from 67 square miles to 2,581 square miles. The residents said at the time that earlier plan would disrupt their rural lifestyles and that if they wanted to move to Tonopah, they would have moved to the town.
Downing said on Oct. 12 that with the latest plan, he is not getting the “negative feeling” of the past. “A year ago, I thought I might be lynched,” he said.
“The whole point of this is to make everybody happy,” Downing said. “We can’t please all the people all the time, but we can please as many as possible. There is a way to work through this.”
“We’re all residents in the area,” he said. “Everything affects everyone.”
BY THE NUMBERS
In calculations provided to the Times-Bonanza, the Nye County Assessor’s Office said:
■ The annexation area contains about 516 square miles;
■ Tonopah would grow from approximately 67 square miles to about 583 square miles.
This proposed new area, the assessor’s office said, would extend from the current Town of Tonopah boundaries:
■ North approximately 21 miles;
■ South approximately four miles;
■ East approximately four miles;
■ Northwest approximately nine miles following the Esmeralda County boundary.
■ Jacksonville, Florida is considered the largest in the continental USA for land size at more than 840 square miles.
■ Voting in favor of the annexation were Tonopah Town Board Chairman Duane Downing, Clerk Janet Hatch and members Don Kaminski and Jerry Elliston. Member Tom Seley was not in attendance and did not vote.
■ Though the town of Tonopah had previously said the annexation aimed to make up for budget funds now going to the Northern Nye County Hospital District, officials now report that is only part of the reason. The town is looking to plan for its financial future. Check an upcoming story in the Times-Bonanza for details.
Contact reporter David Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org