To the Editor, and to our friends and neighbors in Churchill County,
We have carefully watched the activities of the County Manager, the Churchill County Planning Commission, and the Churchill County Commissioners over the past several months, and we can only conclude that Churchill County residents and homeowners should be afraid of changes being proposed in the county. If you live near vacant or undeveloped land in the county, then you should be VERY afraid because your neighborhood could be the next target for “high-density urbanization.”
If you live in the county, take a look out your window and take a walk around the neighborhood. Do you see an acre or two (or more) of undeveloped land in or near you? Now imagine the apartment complex that will be dropped into that space at 24 units per acre. Imagine hundreds more cars driving on your rural streets, and the light and sound pollution it will bring to your peaceful rural neighborhood. Imagine the increase in crime in your once safe neighborhood, imagine the shady characters hanging out under the neon lights of the fast-food joint on the corner. When that happens, and it will with the stroke of the County Commissioners’ pen within the next few weeks, YOU will have been urbanized, and it will only be the beginning. Welcome to city life, smack dab in the middle of your rural county neighborhood.
County leadership and the Planning Commission appear to be chomping at the bit to bring new high-density housing to the county. Most importantly, they are actively attempting to do so with complete disregard for the welfare and quality of life of existing county residents and homeowners. This is despite the fact that there are perfectly suited parcels of land in Churchill County that could be used in this manner without negatively impacting existing rural neighborhoods. The County’s overzealous desire to force-fit high-density housing, including bringing multi-story apartment buildings into single-family neighborhoods, can only be described as a short-sighted and “knee-jerk” reaction to the current housing crisis, and outright pandering to the greedy developers requesting it. This type of invasive construction can only happen if we rural citizens are passive enough to let it happen.
Churchill County is a rural county. We have never had high-density residential zones in the entire history of Churchill County, simply because it doesn’t make sense in a rural county. High-density living is the hallmark of city living, while low-density living is the hallmark of rural county living. High-density, lower-cost housing is unquestionably needed at the current time, but that belongs within the boundaries of the City of Fallon. High-density living is the reason why cities exist, and cities are well equipped to provide all of the required services; water, sewer, ambulance, police, fire, public transportation, entertainment, and shopping that city dwellers desire. Churchill County isn’t a city, and it can’t effectively or efficiently solve our immediate high-density housing shortage by itself. The City and County need to work together to ensure the required high-density growth can occur in an orderly and well-planned fashion within city limits, where it belongs, including expanding city boundaries if needed. This is the correct long-term solution, but it isn’t easy. Destroying our existing rural neighborhoods with haphazard “islands” of high-density construction (spot zoning) is simply NOT the right answer.
Churchill County has built a water system and sewer system that are currently very under-utilized, so County leadership wants more housing developments connected to it, which will instantly bring more revenue from these systems. But this can certainly be done in a thoughtful, well-planned, and orderly fashion without negatively impacting the current residents and homeowners of Churchill County. The new growth should be sensitive to and respect the character and culture of our existing rural neighborhoods. New growth should NOT be haphazardly “spot zoned,” force-fitting it wherever there is undeveloped property that can be easily connected to their utilities. But that is exactly what they are trying to push through on Birch Road and Casey Road: spot zoning high-density housing in the middle of an established rural, single-family neighborhood simply because it is close and convenient to their underutilized water and sewer systems. It is no surprise that the developers heartily embrace this strategy because the denser the developers are allowed to build, the more money both they and the County will make. This relationship between developers and the County leadership will destroy the rural lifestyle in our neighborhoods if we allow it to happen.
County leadership appears to have absolutely no concern for the context, character, or quality of life within your existing rural neighborhood, and this is exactly why you should be afraid. The County is presently rushing through a proposal to create a new EVEN HIGHER zoning designation called R-3 which allows up to 24 units on a single acre in the county (apartment complexes), as well as allowing commercial zones within those developments. Do rural residents want a gas station, convenience store, or fast-food joint to pop up on the corner in their rural neighborhood next to the pasture where crops are growing, or where livestock or horses are kept? With R-2 (up to 16 units per acre plus commercial) and R-3 (up to 24 units per acre plus commercial) zoning, make no mistake, this will be a reality. Once they quietly get this vote passed later this month, they will start approving Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) at this highest density anywhere a developer can find a parcel of land in the county to set it on.
County leadership appears so anxious to build high-density housing that they are scheduling special “emergency” meetings, which makes it difficult for our rural citizens to attend and express their well-founded concerns. They schedule their County Commissioners’ meetings to address these issues and to vote on them at 8:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. on weekdays, so county residents that are employed would have to take time off from work to attend and voice an opinion. This strategically guarantees that the voice of the people of Churchill County will be kept to a minimum at these meetings, and the County leadership can more easily and quietly run their own agendas.
We want the county to honor and enforce the current zoning in ALL of our established single-family neighborhoods in the county. Churchill County has acres upon acres of undeveloped land that would serve this high-density housing need, while not infringing on the unique quality and character of our established single-family neighborhoods. Until every single acre of it is developed and occupied, we should not even consider re-zoning or high-density PUDs within established neighborhoods. Such drastic steps as spot-zoning should only be considered in the distant future, and as a very last resort because of the damage, it will do to our established neighborhoods.
WE put the County Commissioners in office to be OUR voice in the County. They have sworn to represent us and to speak and vote for us. Silence sends them the message that we don’t care. They must hear a loud and decisive NO from their constituents to be able to represent us accurately on these issues. YOU have a voice and an opinion. THEY need to hear it.
Go to https://www.churchillcountynv.gov/128/County-Commissioners to stay current on all of these high-density changes being proposed. Read the meeting agendas and minutes regarding this issue. Attend the Planning Commission meetings and the County Commissioners’ meetings. Speak to your Commissioner about the urbanization of Churchill County when you see him out in the community. Call, write or email your county commissioner with this simple message, and it will take less than 5 minutes for your voice to be heard:
Dear Commissioner ___________
I am opposed to creating the new R3 zoning designation because apartment complexes belong in the city, not in our rural county neighborhoods. I am also opposed to changing the zoning or spot zoning in our established rural neighborhoods. Future housing developments in Churchill County should always match the surrounding neighborhoods to preserve our rural way of life.
Justin Heath: Phone: (775) 666-5757 [email protected]
Pete Olsen: Phone: (775) 427-7995 [email protected]
Greg Koenig: Phone: (775) 666-5878 [email protected]
Once this urbanization of Churchill County starts, there will be no stopping it.
Call and email the Commissioners NOW to preserve the rural way of life
that we all chose and that we all cherish.
Jim and Lori Souba
Rural Churchill County Residents for 24 years.
Views expressed in letters to the editor, and by writers in the commentary and opinion sections are their own and do not necessarily reflect the point of view of The Fallon Post. We support and encourage a vigorous, public debate and polite, public discourse as a normal, sacred part of American civic life. Please send letters, commentary, or opinion pieces to [email protected]