Planning panel shows ‘right stuff’ for job

Carson City’s Planning Commission, with a membership featuring diverse experience, displays judgment in keeping with sound city planning.

This body is about to review the private sector Capitol Mall project, a proposed hotel-tech center and office/retail complex downtown. The commission is preparing to make major decisions as it provides oversight and input regarding such urban mixed-use development. Often commissioners work without much fanfare, but this proposal puts them in the spotlight. Here’s a brief refresher course going in on who they are.

The chairman is George Wendell, pastor at Victory Christian Center. He began on the commission in 2007 and is in his second term. He was reappointed for that second go-round in 2011. He runs commission meetings precisely, with propriety and aplomb.

Paul Esswein, vice chairman, is a professional planner working in Lyon County who has lived in Carson City almost a decade. A planner much of his adult life, he knows zoning and related planning issues well. Esswein is a neighbor and I count him a friend, so my view may be biased. But it also is informed both through work and personally.

Though we don’t always see eye-to-eye on politics and government, I view his judgment as sound, his knowledge of planning extensive and his adherence to law in such matters as unquestioned. The commission and Carson City are lucky to have his mind at their disposal for planning issues large or small.

Walt Owens, lifelong Carson City resident and semi-retired manufacturer, built Owens Precision more than 37 years ago from his garage into a company employing 75. His credentials are solid. I know Walt a bit less well than Paul, but count him a friend as well, an even-keeled person who understands his home community, knows the need for reasoned judgment and displays it continually.

Kent Steele is a roadway engineer with the Nevada Department of Transportation whose other interests include music, sound engineering, home brewing and flying. Steele asks pertinent questions planning reviews. He brings technical knowledge to bear on planning issues.

Victor Castro, who recently joined the commission, brought with him knowledge about urban sprawl and other issues related to the mega-metropolis of Los Angeles, where he used to reside. He’s an assistant football coach with the Carson City School District.

Mark Sattler, a sales account executive, has been active in city government or related activities for years. He has served on the Carson City Golf Advisory Committee and is on city government’s Debt Management Commission, as well as the Planning Commission. He once ran for city supervisor, displays an inquisitive mind and in such probing shows the capacity to determine facts during meetings.

Commissioners regularly display sound insight and understanding regarding private property rights, zoning law and its nuances, yet are sensitive to competing interests.

One lament, however, is that Malkiat Dhami recently died. I also knew Dhami, a long time commissioner. He will be missed both personally and for his professional judgement. He may be replaced by May 27, but his shoes will be tough to fill. Dhami built and ran lodging properties, which would have been another pertinent background to help review Capitol Mall plans.


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