Douglas County candidates debate growth, TRPA |

Douglas County candidates debate growth, TRPA

by Sally J. Taylor, Tribune News Service

New blood faced experience Tuesday in a straight-to-the-point forum of Douglas County Commission candidates.

Incumbents Jacques Etchegoyhen, District 2, and Don Miner, District 4, along with their respective challengers, Michael Hayes and Tim Smith, were each given three minutes to answer four questions during the forum hosted by the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce at Stateline. District 4 represents the lake area.

Sustainable growth in the Carson Valley and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency policy at the lake dominated the brief answers.

All the candidates criticized the TRPA’s lack of accountability. The bi-state, federal agency is charged with protecting Lake Tahoe’s fragile environment.

“The original goal for the formation of the TRPA is admirable,” said Hayes, who has served on the Douglas County Planning Commission and seen the frustration of planners working with the agency.

He called the TRPA’s current state a “quagmired bureaucracy.”

“If it doesn’t accomplish its goals, it should be held accountable,” said

Smith, who is retiring as Tahoe Douglas fire chief. He called for more consensus building at TRPA rather than what “almost looks like a dictatorship.”

“The Shorezone Scenic Regulation involved rushing to judgment to pass it without the proper input,” Smith said, referring to the recent regulation to control the size and appearance of construction visible from the lake.

“We have to go back and revisit the TRPA,” said Etchegoyhen, a veteran commissioner and fourth-generation Nevadan. “There are only four elected folks (on the board of directors) who are held accountable to anyone by elections.

“We’re not getting the environment we ought to be getting and we’re not getting the business we ought to be getting.”

Miner, who has served eight years on the TRPA board as the county representative, had the harshest words for the agency.

“The biggest problem with the TRPA is that it has lost its focus. They’ve delayed projects that they don’t understand. They’re controlled by special interests who have an easy walk-through to staff,” he said.

Miner advocated scaling back the authority of the TRPA to create a high-level planning organization and decreasing its budget, which comes from California and Nevada.

“The next step is the dissolution of the TRPA,” he concluded.

Ballot Question 4, the Sustainable Growth Initiative, hit a similar note of passion.

All four candidates considered planning for growth important, but most preferred the county planning process and implementation of the capital improvement plan.

Hayes, however, said that if the commissioners had implemented the growth-related capital improvement plan, Question 4 would not have happed.

“The number of people who signed the petition to put the initiative on the ballot indicates the degree of frustration. The general feeling is that growth is going too fast.”

According to Etchegoyhen, Question 4 has too many “thou shalts” without explaining how they should be applied.

Smith said it leaves no flexibility for county government and could actually drive development into open areas and artificially inflate property values.

According to Miner, the initiative could decrease county services because it takes away the commission’s ability to recoup those costs from developers.

The Nevada Supreme Court will be considering whether Question 4 is legal. However a decision may not come until after the election.

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