59 percent of 400 say they would support open space

Fifty-nine percent of Douglas County residents said they would support a quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for open space in a recent poll of 400 registered voters.

Poll backers are now enthusiastic that a majority of Douglas County's 26,934 voters - 7,242 of whom are inactive - would also say yes, especially if they're told what an open space preservation plan would do and how the tax proceeds would be spent.

"I think what we're doing is supported by the voters of this county," said Dave Bolick, executive director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and chairman of a coalition of business people, ranchers and open space advocates.

The coalition paid for the telephone poll, which was conducted March 30 through April 2. The margin of error for the survey is 4.9 percent. Bolick released the poll results Thursday.

Asked if they support a plan to add a quarter-cent levy to Douglas County's current 6.75 percent sales tax, 59 percent of the respondents said yes, 26 percent said no and 15 percent were undecided.

The survey summary says 75 percent of the respondents favored the increase when told of a possible conservation easement purchase program in which willing landowners would be paid to not develop their ranch land. Nine percent of those polled were unsure, while 17 percent remained opposed.

Asked if development of ranches is a concern, 78 percent ranked it serious, 20 percent said not serious and 2 percent were unsure.

Nearly two-thirds of the respondents agreed that providing services to developed land is more expensive than servicing ranch land.

More than 60 percent agreed a multi-million dollar water system could be needed if money isn't spent now on protecting underground water supplies.

Most of the respondents also indicated information about potential benefits to wildlife habitat, water supplies and preservation of ranches and other open space would sway their opinions in favor of the tax increase.

The report concludes that voters believe a quarter-cent tax hike to preserve open space "will help avoid costly mistakes that would mean a nightmare of new taxes for piecemeal solutions in the future.

"If voters are made aware of the benefits of the program and other important financial details, such as the impact on individual families, the quarter-cent sales tax increase has an excellent chance of passage," it says.


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