(Not In My Backyard)
The hardest part about being an out of state student is not the eight hour drive to get here, or the hefty amount being paid, or not knowing anyone in California. The hardest part about going to school in a different state is never being able to see your family or hometown. Since Christmas, I have not seen my family once, and the first time I am going home will be during Spring Break. I have spent many nights looking through old pictures of my family, friends, and more importantly, my house. There is nothing in the whole world that has the same feeling as home. Being so far away causes me to dream about my house and the beauty that surrounds it.
I live in a small neighborhood of about two hundred houses called Alpine View Estates. The houses are scattered among the foothills of the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains. Each house is on a minimum of two acres. The neighborhood is made up mostly of retired seniors or ambitious young families. Many interesting and colorful people live around me. For example, a woman breeds and raises donkeys for a living; which is fine and dandy until they are waking the whole neighborhood up at five o’clock in the morning because she is late feeding them. My house is on the top of a small hill that looks down onto a miniature ranch valley. We have a breathtaking view of what I call “my mountain” or as everyone else call it Freel Peak.(4) On my first flight home, I looked out the window and saw my beautiful snow sprinkled mountain and started to cry. It was my first taste of home. I know it sounds quite silly that I cried at the sight of a mountain, but this mountain was there when I needed to cry, scream, laugh, or just get lost in its beauty.
(Snapshot of my mountain taken by myself)
My precious mountain is in danger of being deformed by outsiders. All the property that the existing houses are built on was originally owned by Mr. Schneider. The property was sold in the seventies and developed to what it is now. Schneider still owns many acres of land adjacent to Alpine View which he uses as his own personal ranch. In 1999, he sold an area of his ranch called Clear Creek to a developer, John Serpa. This piece of land is one thousand five hundred and seventy-six acres of appealing property. Over a period of many months, Serpa and a contractor named Bingman submitted many different options for developing the land. Serpa would submit development plans to the county for approval, but each time they were denied. The last plan he produced included a golf course with ninety-one houses, and a central circular area which planned to have a large number of homes built on it. Again, these were denied. In 2003, Serpa applied for a change of the Douglas County Master Plan that would make the Clear Creek land a “receiving area,” which is an area designated to accommodate development transferred from agricultural or natural areas through a transfer of development rights. This would allow unrestricted usage of the Clear Creek property. Changing the land to a receiving area would include making the development have a minimum of eight thousand square feet per lot. This is one eleventh of the size of the current minimum of two acres. With this change, Serpa could build numerous cheap houses on small lots.(5)
The Alpine View Homeowner’s Association opposed this for many reasons. First, changing the land to a receiving area would open other agricultural areas to intense development. This means that if the Master Plan is changed, then not only would Clear Creek be opened to development, but so would many other areas in the Carson Valley. No land would be protected from ruthless contractors. Second, if the change was passed, the traffic on Bavarian Drive (the main road) would produce fumes, dust, and hazards for children and pets. It would also create construction traffic through a residential area while the development progressed. Also, the association stated that the main reason the Douglas County Master Plan passed was because the community believed it would protect our jewel of a valley from intruding developments.(3) Serpa tried to compromise with the association, promising not to build over a certain number of houses, and even to build a ramp connecting Highway 50 to Clear Creek which would cut down on traffic through the Alpine View area.(1) But the homeowners would not stand down; “Not in our backyard!” they said.
On November 6, 2003, the county commissioners reviewed the appeal and voted to change the Master Plan of the county so Clear Creek would be a receiving area. Yet the Commissioners’ Planning Committee, whom the commissioners elected, strongly advised them to vote against it. However, Commissioner Etchegoyhen recused himself because of conflict of interests and did not vote on this issue. Commissioner Weissenger was absent and didn’t vote. Commissioner Smith voted against the change. And only Commissioner Kite and Curtis voted for it. The commissioners that voted for the change decided that out of five people, a vote of two to one was enough to change the county master plan.(2)
Outraged, the Homeowner’s Association hired an attorney and sued the county. They stated that the decision made by the county was not a valid one.(1) While waiting for the commissioners’ decision, they researched more reasons why the area should not be changed to a receiving area. If Clear Creek did get rezoned then houses would extend from the main road to the foothills of the mountains, which is a stretch of two and a half miles. It was predicted by the Board of Transportation that pollution would increase because of the tens of thousands of cars coming through the area. Bavarian Drive would have to be widened because the roads were not originally built for heavy traffic. Stop signs and stoplights would have to be installed at many intersections around the neighborhood, which would mean more construction. Also, the residents of Alpine View are concerned about their property values and how the development will affect the prices.
The property owners, armed with their lawyer went to the county judge, Judge Gamble, who ruled against the county. He ruled that the County Commissioners had no authority to make that decision. In response, Serpa appealed to the State Supreme Court of Nevada. The court, much busier with problems like murder and theft, sent an arbitrator to try and come up with a solution that would satisfy both sides. The arbitration was completed, but no decision was made. It has since gone back to the Supreme Court and is being argued there now.(2)
Being from the area, I do have a bias on how I view this controversy. Of course I don’t want strangers moving into this place that is mine and my families’. During a conversation with my father about the issue, he brought up the point that if the same thing [SM1]hadn’t passed several years ago, we wouldn’t have our house now. This is because the land that Alpine View is built on now used to belong to Mr. Schneider also. If the county hadn’t let those developers build the houses back then, then we would not be living where we are. How can we say that it is alright for us to live there, but no one else? Don’t we want to share this beauty and space with our fellow man? The answer I am afraid is no.
There is no good reason for the developer to build except that there is open land. The con side states logically that the neighborhood is already short on water, and can not spare anymore for new houses. This is especially true if a golf course is built. Our roads are already experiencing wear and tear from the current traffic. The strongest persuasion tactic that our side has is that the judge of the county ruled against the decision made by the commissioners. The credibility of Judge Gamble is much greater than that of all the commissioners put together. The fact the commissioners made a decision with no authority to do so, will also play into the decision. In addition, the commissioners’ own committee advised the commissioners that this would be a bad change to vote for. Lots of emotional appeal can be used to argue not to have this development. Children and pets live and play very close to the street, and all it takes is one reckless driver to kill or severely injure someone. I think the strongest argumentative tactics will be ethos and logos. The supreme courts hear sob stories all the time and won’t be interested in someone’s cat getting run over.
I hope that Mr. Serpa and the Supreme Court understand that we are acting as humans normally act. One of our basic instincts is to protect our homeland. I am sure anyone would do the same if someone wanted to build hundreds of houses in their backyard. This argument is not even close to being over. Even if the Supreme Court rules against making Clear Creek a receiving area, Mr. Serpa still owns the land and only cares about making a profit on it. He does not care, however, about the wonderful families that live in the neighborhood. About the children who won’t be able to run free as I was able to, due to the immense danger of traffic. Mr. Serpa doesn’t care that our community is the kind of place where people wave to each other even though they might not know the other person, just in hopes that they might brighten their day. Alpine View is a place that I dreamed about raising a family in. That dream does not include fences, stoplights, or golf courses. Whatever happens though, I know that they can never knock down my mountain[SM2].
(Sun setting over mountains in the Carson valley taken from the website http://www.hiking-world.com/job.shtml)
1) The Record-Courier homepage, the Douglas County newspaper:
2) The Reno Gazette Journal, Northern Nevada’s most complete newspaper:
3) The Douglas County Homepage:
4) Job’s peak, Sister, and Freel Peak:
5) Interview with father, active participant in controversy
February 27, 2005
[SM2]Kathryn—leaves some issues open for discussion, but no matter, this is a beautifully developed and lucid study of this land use issue that makes the reader join you in being part of it. A