Smart Growth in Douglas County

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Douglas County commissioners passed a growth ordinance last month to limit the number of new houses going up in their region. But now, a big home developer has filed a lawsuit against commissioners, saying it could hurt the economy.

They say this lawsuit is just a tiny piece of the bigger picture. There ha's been an ongoing battle in Douglas County over the growth rate for years.

This new argument is over the 2% compounded growth rate that went into effect July 1st, meaning only 317 new home permits will be issued per year.

New homes are popping up all over Douglas County, bringing in new businesses and more people.

"Too much traffic, it takes too long to get across. Unless you go to a signal, you can't get across," said Martin Gundlach of Minden.

"The traffic gets a little hairy at times, but I am willing to deal with it," said Diane Seidlitz of Minden.

Vice Chairman of the Douglas County Commission, David Brady, says a few decades ago, there were plans to deal with some of the growing pains, like a bypass, meant to keep travelers from having to drive straight through town...but that plan failed.

"You bypass 20 years and realize a bypass would have been very helpful," said Brady.

Based on a family household average of 2.5, the annual population growth in Douglas County is at about 4%. Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to decrease that number, capping it at 2%, in hopes of reuniting a very divided community.

Brady added, "We had no growth ordinance. The one that was adopted through the initiative was suspended in court. We had to move this off the dime and get something on the books in order to remove that paralysis and move this community forward."

He says most Douglas County residents are either strongly for or strongly opposed to rapid growth...but in 2002, voters agreed upon a strict limit to the number of new homes allowed to go up. Since then, entrepreneurs and developers have been counting rooftops, trying to decide whether their business could thrive there. Residents who are still trying to maintain the rural character of the county are concerned it won't hold up if it grows any faster.

"There are lessons learned when we look at issues Reno, Sparks and Washoe County are trying to address."

"Increase in taxes, inconveniences, more services required for more people. I know developers say life is wonderful now that they're paving the valley, but I don't believe it."

County officials are worried about not having enough public services in Douglas County, like police and firefighters.

Big developers, like the one filing this latest lawsuit, "Landmark Homes" out of Reno, want to build there anyway and don't think county officials should be able to limit their ability to do so.