The Great Terrain Robbery

Bob Fulkerson is executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Bob Fulkerson is executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Developers and their lawyers are making a killing by converting resources like water and public lands into private assets. And they’re getting away with murder. It’s time to deputize every citizen to resist their abuse of the public trust.

Developers are leading the charge to break the 2002 Regional Plan and increase urban sprawl. They thought their plans for Winnemucca Ranch and annexation of 140,000 acres of public lands north of here would glide right through. But the planning commissioners said no to them and yes to good planning. Citizens have used the democratic process to fight back, and we’re winning.

Lawyers at Jones-Vargas law firm, which represents the Winnemucca Ranch developers, wrote a letter to Voters for Sensible Growth attorney John Marshall threatening to sue VSG if we didn’t back off: “We have real concerns your clients have brought this case for no proper purpose than to harass the named parties—your clients have every right to participate (in workshops).”

Their arrogance is astonishing. They say our lawsuit, which unmasked the procedural problems with the annexation amendments, is frivolous. Judge Kosach didn’t agree. He said the Regional Planning Commission is under no obligation to process the annexation amendments.

But the developers and their lawyers are used to mowing over anyone and anything that stands between them and a dollar.

We just saw it with Ballardini Ranch. The developers paid $8.5 million for it. We taxpayers paid them $13.5 million to “settle” this issue. What do we get out of it? About 113 acres of open space on mostly unbuildable land. But this still wasn’t enough for the developers. They now get to build 3,000 units instead of the 1,200 in the original proposal.

How will we get services for these massive new developments from Ballardini to Pyramid Lake? Where will the water, sewer, roads and schools come from? What will happen to wildlife habitat?

One thing is clear—the cost. Local water purveyors hired a consulting firm that calculated we’ll need over a billion dollars to supply water for new growth over 30 years. Developers insist that you and I should pay for it. That’s exactly what some members of a legislative subcommittee chaired by Sen. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) have proposed. They want to create a new government agency to acquire water on behalf of developers and dump the costs on the existing rate base.

Fight back. Join Voters for Sensible Growth—a coalition of North Valley citizen groups, homeowners’ associations, conservation organizations and off-road vehicle users. We meet the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 4 p.m. at the PLAN offices, 821 Riverside Drive.

Only you can determine whether this Great Terrain Robbery will be met with a shrug or with outrage. For more information, e-mail VSG President Stephen Tchudi at <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"> </script>