Looking back from 10 years in the future

As I look back on 2012, it was a year of many changes for the Carson City area -- some of them, perhaps, forseeable a decade ago when decisions were made that shaped the future of our community.

First, I want to congratulate all the students and teachers at Fuji High School for another stellar year both academically and athletically. It's certainly turned into the kind of high school I had hoped for when taxpayers in Carson City and Douglas County approved bond issues in 2007 that funded a combined high school on the county line.

We can now look back and say it was fortuitous the former fairgrounds property was available as a school site, instead of being sold for commercial development. Of course, there was some tough negotiating a few years ago when Carson City supervisors again tried to put the property on the market, leading to a revival of the Save Fuji/Fairgrounds movement,

but I still think the compromise was the right thing to do.

As you may recall, when Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target decided to pull out of Douglas County in favor of their new sites just east of Mound House, Douglas County commissioners were getting mighty worried their sales-tax revenues would evaporate.

But there wasn't much use in trying to stop the "big box" retailers from pulling up stakes for Lyon County, where nearly all the population growth has occurred for the past 10 years. It was probably inevitable.

But with a "no-growth" ordinance in place in Douglas, and Carson City simply out of room, what choice did they have?

Fortunately, however, Douglas and Carson City officials -- building on their years-long partnership to try to stop Lyon County from grabbing all the new retail businesses to go along with its population growth -- came up with the agreements now known as the Berkich-Holler Pact, named for the city and county managers who worked them out.

With the huge retail spaces left empty in North Douglas County, there was more than enough room for the new Carson-Douglas Convention, Visitors, Classic Cars, Dog Show and Horse Arena Fairgrounds, otherwise known as the CDCVCCDSHAF.

With the two counties working together, the CDCVCCDSHAF has become a showplace for Northern Nevada. There's even talk of hosting the state fair.

I still think the old Stewart complex would have been a good site, but state officials say they have plans for it in the future. Since only three buildings now remain standing at the historic location, I have to wonder when they're actually going to do something.

Meanwhile, Carson City officials reported the seventh straight year of increased sales-tax revenues, led mainly by the continued strength of downtown businesses. It was a risky strategy, I have to admit, but once they quit chasing "big box" retailers with no loyalty to any community and concentrated on stable, small businesses in the downtown core, it didn't take long for the results to show.

We've never had so many stores, shops, restaurants, galleries, bars and theaters to choose from -- for locals and tourists alike. The beautiful part of it is, when one business moves out, another one moves right in. Property values are soaring.

Minden-Gardnerville, which saw its once-stable core of small businesses suffer as customers flocked to the big stores in the north county, is starting its own revival.

Out in Lyon County, they're overjoyed to see their growth-at-all-costs strategy is bringing in people by the busload. It hardly seems possible that only five years ago, fewer people lived in Lyon than in either Carson City or Douglas County.

Of course, if you drive east on Highway 50 today -- when it's not bumper-to-bumper traffic, of course -- and you see the development as it stretches from Mound House to Silver Springs, you don't have to wonder where they put all 120,000 people.

I just wish they had left some room for parks. But maybe a proposal on the next election ballot to raise taxes to buy open space will pass, and they'll be able to buy back some of that property. It sure seems like it would have been cheaper to do 10 years ago.

Still, Lyon County issues may seem simple next to those folks at Lake Tahoe. I saw the other day where the 1,281st lawsuit was filed over the scenic-preservation guidelines that were adopted back in 2002. Total damages sought by property owners living in Incline Village alone now amount to more than $600 billion. I still rue the day I first saw those bumper stickers, "Building a Better Tahoe."

Yes, there are some problems around us. But mostly I'm optimistic about the future and every day I see signs that things are going to keep improving.

Why, just the other day I read comments from the Nevada Department of Transportation saying the Carson City bypass is just a few more years away.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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