Comstock compromise

Comstock Mining Inc. application approved in Silver City

Robert Elston is a longtime Silver City resident who is upset by the County Commission’s vote.

Robert Elston is a longtime Silver City resident who is upset by the County Commission’s vote.

Photo/Sage Leehey

For more information on Lyon County happenings, visit Nancy Dallas's website

After the Jan. 2 Lyon County Commission’s 4-1 vote approving the master plan amendment and zoning change requests on land in Silver City made by Comstock Mining Inc., many residents are angry and disheartened.

Much of the controversy surrounds two of the commissioners—Vida Keller and Bob Hastings—and a compromise that Keller made with CMI late the day before the meeting. The vote approved CMI’s application with this compromise tacked on. It removed about 15 acres from the rezoned land including some historic mining buildings and land closest to residential homes. Keller had not responded by press deadline.

“The compromise was made between Ms. Keller, who lives in Silver Springs, and CMI,” Dallas said. “It was not made with any input whatsoever from Silver City. And so then they had input from 60 or 70 people [at the meeting] and some discussion from the board before they voted, and that’s pretty much it. They got their changes.”

Dallas and Elston believe Keller may have compromised integrity as well, mainly because of her husband’s involvement with a non-profit that has received funding from CMI and because of previous actions.

Both also mentioned that Hastings’ campaign donations show he may be biased towards CMI, too. CMI donated to Hastings’ campaign three times in 2012, totaling $10,000. Intergroup Corp., Santa Fe Financial Corp. and Portsmouth Square Inc. also donated a total of $7,500 the same year. John V. Winfield, CMI director and chairman of the board, is the chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of each of these companies.

“How can you depend on your commissioners anymore?” Elston said. “Who’s going to look after you? Money talks, I guess, and the rest of us walk.”

Hastings said the donations didn’t play a role in his decision because he “made it clear from day one” that he would do what he thinks is right for the county. He also said CMI did not ask him to vote in a certain way.

He said he believes this is a property rights issue and voted as such.

“They own the property,” Hastings said. “Where they’re at, there are patented mining claims that go back to the 1870s, which means they have the right to mine there. I think the county made a mistake in the past by putting zoning over the top of that.”

Another point of concern to many in this decision is that the planning commission voted against CMI’s requests. Dallas said “the lack of respect for the planning process” was one of the most troublesome aspects of this decision in her opinion. She feels that the county commissioners seemed to be underinformed and to have made their decision before the meeting began.

Some Silver City residents are also concerned for how the community may be affected by these changes. At this time, CMI states they do not have plans for the area. But with a special use permit, these changes would allow for the company to begin mining in the area.

“This is really, really bad news for us all, I think,” Elston said. “If it makes it bad enough where people have to leave … it will change and then what will happen after CMI is gone? Will it be left a shell like it was when many of us moved in here in the late ’60s? … There wasn’t any community. We built that over the years, and I’m afraid that will all be destroyed.”