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February 03, 2004
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ARCHIVE: Growth Task Force

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INTRO: Three Clark County commissioners say they want to create a task force to make recommendations regarding growth in the valley. The proposal comes as Commissioners feel the effects of increased public outcry over a waning quality of life because of unfettered growth. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.

PLASKON: Yesterday after lunch, County commissioners Bruce Woodbury, Rory Ried and Mark James stood in front of reporters and pointed at three maps that detail development growth in the Valley over time starting in 1970.

JAMES: Clark county has been and is the fastest growing area in the United States since 1986 . . . to take you back in history a little bit . . . we have got some maps here.

PLASKON: Developed areas are in red. For 18 years those areas have been exponentially soaking up land at the fastest rate of any metropolitan city in the U-S. Over the years the number of growth-related items coming before the commission for approval has grown to 400 every month. Commissioner James says he's no planning expert - and that makes it tough to decide which to approve and not approve.

JAMES: We in the county growing in a kind of haphazard fasion approving things just as they come to us. The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing in terms of when we approve a new development are there going to be enough schools in terms of when these houses are filled up?

PLASKON: Commissioner Bruce Woodbury says that the public is becoming increasingly concerned.

WOODBURY: The people living in these areas, they move into these areas and right away their schools are overcrowded, their transportation networks are congested. So this task force can maybe help us better address those major projects. Resulting from BLM Land sales.

PLASKON: This task force would be made up of just about every sector of the population, citizens to developers, environmentalists and business people. Woodbury hopes to have the members approved by March. Shortly there after it will be working on some new laws, because to date the planning commission that oversees growth in the valley have been pretty weak.

WOODBURY: Really have a pretty limited level of jurisdiction of what they are tasked to do understate law. That is basically to make recommendations on master plans, zone changes, use permits and so on. And so those planning commissions have done a good job but they have never had the jurisdiction or the mandate like we are talking about here.

PLASKON: He hopes the task force will recommend some state legislation such as increasing impact fees so that growth pays for growth he says. He adds that developers will probably be receptive to more restrictions because they are used to dealing with restrictions everywhere else around the nation. Alan Pinkerton is the County's Acting Director of Comprehensive Planning. It's charged with overseeing growth. He says there is some urgency in creating the task force, particularly to take advantage of an increase in citizens interested in growth issues over the past 6 months.

PINKERTON: Get as many people as soon as possible involved in the process as opposed to waiting until the end when we are involved in litigation or lawsuits.

PLASKON: In order to explain the balance this task force must strike between protecting quality of life and ensuring growth can still meet demand - Commissioners compared housing prices and income in recent years. Rental and housing prices are outpacing family income by 6 to 19 percent. That equation is unsustainable and means the affordability of living in the valley and potential for developers to build more houses in the valley are both threatened. That is just part of what the task force will do. Water and public safety will also be considered. They call the project broad and ambitious.

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