Commissioner Chris Hegg placed on the commissioner’s agenda for Nov. 7, an item stating, “… relative to eliminating the existing Mineral County Planning Commission and integrate duties into the Board of County Commissioners, changing the Ordinance to remove ‘Regional Commission.’”
He explained that the Nevada Revised Statute refers to ‘regional’ to a specific case which would be Hawthorne. He went on to say that regional does not cover county-wide.
“We can have the regional commission integrated [with the board of county commissioners] since we make the final decision, as a planning commission,” he said.
Commissioner Jerrie Tipton asked Hegg what his goal was for the planning commission.
He stated, “To streamline the process since we are down there doing it anyways – we can just do it here. I mean we have the same people. I’m sure they would still be willing to part of this process but if we do it here [at the commissioner level] instead of going down there [to the building inspector office where the planning commission currently meets].”
“My goal when you boys got elected,” said Tipton, “was one year one of you sit on that and then somebody else.”
Hegg told her that it still doesn’t fix the problems associated with the planning commission.
Commissioner Garth Price asked Hegg if this would be like the regional transportation commission that currently meets during commissioner meetings.
Tipton explained that while she sat on the planning commission, there was a master plan which needs to be done every 10 years. Her concern is that both Price and Hegg both have full time jobs. She went on to explain that each member on the planning board has full-time positions.
“We need to be more specific on how we get things done,” Hegg explained. “I think we are losing businesses and we need to streamline this process.”
Mark Nixon, the chairman of the planning commission, explained his interpretation of the Nevada Revised Statute.
“The planning commission is a conduit for the community and people that we served,” Nixon told the commissioners. “That’s what we do. We give people the opportunity to have the say of their properties and so forth while at the same time we charged with complying with federal laws, state laws and county ordinances. All the public hearings are mandated by NRS. Zoning districts are difficult, at best. All the public hearings that have to happen with that, we are the conduit and yes, we do report to the commissioners. That’s the way the regional planning commission works.”
Nixon stated that there are specific rules from Nevada Association of Counties on how the planning commission deals with the commissioners.
“This is a very proactive commission and very vital to the economics of this town, of this county,” Rob Mathias, a member of the regional planning commission told the commissioners. He went on to speak about the I-11 issue.
Connie Ellis explained that she is a stakeholder in the I-11 issue and that she has never seen a commissioner at any of the meetings to which the commissioners explained they have been to many of the meetings.
“I don’t want to see an upheaval between the commissioners and planning commissioner,” Ellis stated.
Hegg again explained that the reason he would like to integrate the two boards is so that decisions can be made promptly and not take weeks for people who trying to make changes to their property.
“Sometimes when you guys [regional planning commission] makes a decision it takes a month to get to us,” Tipton explained.
“I’m just trying to streamline this situation,” Hegg explained.
“Make it a standing item,” Christine Hoferer said to streamline the process between planning commission and commissioners.
Richard Bryant told Hegg, “You just want to streamline county government, Commissioner Hegg. You could never replace what these people do.”
“You want your own board or nothing,” he asked the planning commission.
“We do it the way we do it – under NRS,” Nixon explained.
Cherrie George asked why there was not a standing item regarding the planning commission at each meeting.
Hegg explained to George that he received the Title 17 final draft and in that document was an item “slid” into it regarding casinos that was not in the backup information presented to the commissioners. A joint meeting had to be called between the two groups to hash out the final standing of the document.
“This board has the authority to not take action on any item that comes before you if you don’t feel that you are properly prepared or informed,” George told the board.
“I like that there are separate entities that go through these,” Sheri Samson said. “I think there is a little bit of a conflict of interest.”
Deputy Clerk Bonnie DeMars explained that if she heard correctly that Hegg wanted to join the commissioners and regional planning into one group in order to make decisions more effectively.
District Attorney Sean Rowe explained that he has worked with Nixon over the last few years to get a more cohesive planning commission for the county.
“We need to figure out how to develop that capacity to make sure that there is a coherent planning function that this board is able to be responsive to,” Rowe explained. “If you had personnel that was attending and consulting.”
Tipton asked that a report be brought back in front of the commissioners every two weeks so they are involved more directly.
Nixon explained that as a planning commission member, he receives many inquires about violations “everyday”.
He then complained that the changes from the planning commission have not been reaching the county offices so he is now recording the changes. He noticed that maps do not have the updated information.
Hegg informed Nixon that he is the “leg back to the county” so when Nixon makes a decision – it effects the commissioners even when the board has not heard their issue or complaint.
Hegg asked where the planning commission documents are kept. Nixon explained that they are stored at the Mineral County Building Inspector’s office [which is used for planning meetings] but the board secretary is going through those documents, cleaning them up so not all are stored there.
Tipton explained that when she was on the planning commission, she stored some of the documents for the commission at her home.
“Then they are not public documents, if they are not being stored in a public place,” Hegg said. Rowe stated that yes, they were public documents.
“I trust the planning commission to bring forth what we as a board need to look at,” Tipton said. “And what we as a board need to act on. Cause I sat on it. I was there for six years and because of that I don’t question what you guys do. Maybe I should.”
“This sounds like a continuity/communication break-down,” Mathias stated.
“If I were you, I would tell the planning commission ‘Great job guys – keep it up’” said Mac Potter. “That would be my advice. I believe I’ve shared with each of you my concerns. I believe for the reasons we have talked about the arrangement that you have, given the discussion of resources of Mineral County that you really have a pretty darn good working relationship, pretty functional relationship, also – all things considered.”
Potter continued his discussion with the Independent-News: “This is a lesson in basic civics – more citizen participation in the process of governing is better than less; having more qualified resources to apply to the process of governing is better than having fewer; and more experience and expertise in key areas of county governance is better than less.
Your Planning Commission acts as a filter in the planning/zoning process and a buffer between would-be developers and the County Commission. It provides continuity from one governing regime to the next, and provides the Commission relief from insulated decision making and the appearance of dealing to special interests. Most importantly, it gives the Commissioners guidance and time for full deliberation in arriving at their final decisions.
From our perspective, Mineral County should not attempt to limit participation in its planning process nor should it discard any useful resource let alone its principal planning resource. Honorable Commissioners, you should embrace rather than eliminate your Mineral County Regional Planning Commission.”
After all the discussion, no decision was made in the matter of eliminating the existing Mineral County Regional Planning Commission.