Among other things, CMI decision illustrates an alarming planning ignorance

Mining Open PitI have concluded the four Lyon County Commissioners voting for the Comstock Mining proposal:

  1. A.      Have absolutely no concept of land use planning law, or any comprehension of what they did in regards to what their vote now allows; or
  2. B.      Simply chose to utter their pathetically supportive rationale in an attempt to rationalize to themselves (and naïve members of the audience) their pre-determined actions.

However, neither scenario will make a whit of difference in regards to this decision – unless, they are called to task through legal action. 

Those who do not learn from past mistakes tend to repeat them.  Remember ASG and what it cost Lyon County when the board was taken to task for their illegal actions – motivated by special interest pressure?  Simply put, in the ASG debacle the BOC attempted to curtail a use allowed by special use permit – because a land developer wanted ASG and its zoning gone.

Elected officials do interesting things when faced with their prospects of re-election – and Comstock Mining has now created an atmosphere in Lyon County where it is obvious they can spend the money to determine who will win!  If you want to stay in that lofty seat of power, do not alienate someone who has already demonstrated this financial ability!

Commissioner Hastings’ comments indicate he had no idea of what he was doing in regards to what will now be allowed.  He simply asserted master plans are not etched in stone and people should expect changes – and this approval simply opened up the opportunity for CMI to explore their possibilities. (See full comments in previous article)

Commissioner Mortensen was only concerned with the portion that was zoned NR-2, potentially allowing for high density housing in that area.  Period.  No mention of creating the potential for an open pit mine.

Commissioner Keller was only concerned that she be noted as the “great negotiator” – all on behalf of the residents of Silver City (without consulting them, of course), and promoted her motion in that vein.  She showed no comprehension of what can now be done in regards to the zoning….because, in her opinion, if it is an open pit mine it will need a SUP, it is not a permitted use in itself.

Commissioner Ray Fierro’s comments were the most disappointing of all, because he actually served on the Planning Commission prior to becoming a commissioner and should know better.  Aside from his support of the ‘compromise’, because the portion of the property being removed from the application via the ‘compromise’ saved one of his favorite mill sites from demolition, he showed a complete lack of knowledge as to what can, and will occur, in regards to any of those presumed uses allowed within this zoning “with a special use permit.”

Fierro argued there is a difference between permitted uses and special uses, stating, “What I’m looking at today is permitted uses because those are in actuality, if a change happens, those actually can be done.  SUP’s are actually what could be done.”

First, as John Marshal, legal consultant for those opposed to the CMI proposal, noted at the beginning of his summation, the ‘compromise’ exclusion of the mill site from the proposal, “Did nothing to protect these buildings.  It’s a wholly separate issue.  It doesn’t guarantee anything regarding these sites.”

Secondly, as Mr. Marshall tried to explain to Commissioner Fierro, approval of the proposed Master Plan amendments and subsequent zone changes simply added to both the allowable permitted uses and special uses, noting “the impact is not the increase in density. The impact is in increasing the number of uses.”

“We think that that policy should be implemented via the community planning process that allows the party’s to come together and to try and find out if there’s a way that all of this area’s interests can be compromised into an actual solution.  The proposal before you now is not a compromise….It’s not a give & take….” Marshall explained.  “The proposal before you is the issue – that the proposal can lead to substantial adverse acts to the residents of Silver City.  If this is something you want to go forward with, you’ve got a record problem…and as a litigator I would love to take it right now.  You’d have a hard time supporting, on the existing record, what you have in front of you if you are going to amend the master plan…..”

Marshall added, “If you move forward, someone is going to be really pissed off.  When you get to the SUP and if it’s something that is going to be proposed, then there is already general agreement.  Right now what’s going to happen is you are going to have a lawsuit, perhaps no matter which way you go, on the SUP – and that is not a productive use of anyone’s time. “

Marshall also highlighted one of the policy statements within the 2010 Master Plan:

“New industry should only be located in areas that do not adversely impact existing residential settlements.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

For those of you who don’t quite get the picture (Commissioner Fierro, pay heed):

With the approval of the CMI proposal, the owner of that property may now apply for any use allowed within that land use designation – whether it needs a special use permit or not – and the BOC may not deny that use, unless they want to cause the County to face legal challenges.  By approving the CMI application they said it is OK to place any of the allowed uses there.  The only control over that application is, if it needs a SUP, will be to put conditions on that application.

Some of those testifying argued they supported the CMI application, but would not support an open pit mining operation.  Well, guess what – if CMI comes in with an application for an open pit mine, all the protest in the world will not stop them.  You cannot refuse to allow open pit mining when you have just said open pit mining is OK within that land use designation….PERIOD!  I guess the SUP conditions could be made so harsh the applicants would hesitate to try and meet them; however, I believe SUP conditions that go beyond what is reasonable would be challengeable in court, too.

Marshall stated, “With you’re doing the master planning and zoning you are incorporating new uses that are allowed uses or special uses and I believe you are obligated to look at whether or not that range of uses…is appropriate given this particular area.  That’s good planning.  That’s what good planners do.”

The issue of getting both sides together to discuss a possible compromise prior to approval of the CMI requests was pushed by Marshall and Commissioner Virgil Arellano.

“Mr. Marshall hit the nail on the head.  If we are going to change county policy, than we better have, at the very minimum here, community support on this, with some kind of compromise,” Arellano argued.

Marshall added, “We should say to ourselves ‘we need a solution that is good for everybody.  We are going to deny this for now and try to work it out in the community planning process.  We think it is premature right now two go ahead and take action.’”

However, Commissioner Keller, prior to her motion based on the ‘compromise’, declared, “From what I have seen, nobody’s made that effort to ask for a compromise.  I made an effort on behalf of Silver City to try to get a compromise.” 

Definition of ‘compromise’: An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions….An ability to listen to two sides in a dispute, and devise a compromise acceptable to both.

Definition of a ‘compromise bill’: A compromise bill is a bill, which is drafted after two sides reach an agreement over a dispute by each side making concessions. These bills will usually include a little of what each party wanted at the beginning. Many parliaments usually settle on a compromise bill.

Think about it.

Nancy Dallas, Editor/Publisher

NewsDesk (Est. January 2003)


Posted in Editorials
11 comments on “Among other things, CMI decision illustrates an alarming planning ignorance
  1. politicalphd says:

    I attended one of those CMI “workshops” that were supposed to be unbiased, and found it to be a complete and total infomercial, biased towords mining in every way possible, and, fully against residents. All I saw was CMI ranting and raving about how they were the only ones that were important, and had the ONLY answers to any and all issues, and, they not allowing residents having any response, nor input of ideas at all. If the rest of their “workshops” were handled like that one, I can see where the residents would be off the edge against CMI.

    Mining might be “great for Nevada”, but, it sure hasn’t shown to help the communities around those mines, they usually become places where crime goes completely through the roof, and residents end up paying for the persons making the problems, along with a total loss of property values, and, NO resale values, so those residents that wish to leave, cannot sell their properties, and, leave.

    That one “workshop” wasn’t nice to attend.

  2. politicalphd says:

    I would suggest that the planning department, and planning commission, were all on the same side, deny CMI’s mining efforts.

    To get that approval, it took changing the basic zoning and use of the county for that area, and all county areas, and, that IS what happened.

    Now, if you really want to see a lot more of this to occur, take a close look at the new Lyon County land use and building codes changes, now in draft mode, and being discussed at the planning meetings right now, then, sit back and do nothing. Don’t attend the planning meetngs, don’t attend the workshops for it, jsut let it happen.

    That document is only overpowered in size and government running everything by the worst law in our history, Obama-Caid-Care. Go read the document, it is on the Lyon County web site.

    This isn’t about 4 commissioners any longer, it IS fully about our freedoms to use our own property as we alone see fit, within reason. This new codes plan will strip every bit of your, and, my freedom to enjoy our personal properties as WE see fit, completely away. The plan is literally cut and pasted from many government entities, that have already stripped the rights completely away from citizens/residents/property owners.

    Wake up, total, and, completely over-powering Lyon County big government is on YOUR doorstep, and it ISN’T about those 4 commissioners. If all you want to do is sit on your 6 and whine/moan about how government has forsaken you, then, sit back, keep watching CNN and MSNBC, and, whine/moan away. If you do elect to sit back and do nothing, don’t expect me to sit there and listen to it with a sympathetic ear, I WON’T. If you want the freedom to use YOUR property as YOU see fit, within reason, get up, turn that TV off, and, GET ACTIVE IN THE PLANNING AND GOVERNMENT ISSUES OF THE DAY. Only YOU can change things to be fair and balanced for ALL.

  3. comstockr says:

    There is some serious disingenuousness on the part of the anti-mining crowd, particularly the CRA and it’s representatives, that is not being acknowledged by Ms. Dallas.

    “The issue of getting both sides together to discuss a possible compromise prior to approval of the CMI requests was pushed by Marshall and Commissioner Virgil Arellano.”

    CMI has been holding a series of workshops in Silver City for this very purpose- to gather input from the residents, address concerns and collaborate on future plans. The Comstock Residents Association (to be clear- they are a special interest group representing a small group of those who live on the Comstock, and not any sort of official representative) is boycotting these meetings. They believe that having an open dialogue with CMI will weaken them politically.

    The reality is that most (though not all) of the anti-mining crowd are not interested in any sort of compromise. They don’t recognize CMI’s genuine right to use their property. They have taken a position of antagonism and obstruction, and are not willing to entertain any sort of reasonable middle ground. This Marshall character supposedly advocates “try[ing] to work it out in the community planning process”, which is something his clients have absolutely no interest in doing (as evidenced by their repeated refusal to meet to discuss).

    The calls to stand on 40 years of the “planning process” are a misplaced argument. Over the last 40 years, anti-mining residents have used to master plan process to deprive the owners of these patented claims of usage and quiet enjoyment of the rights they hold over their property. In a “tyranny of the majority”, they have stifled any productive use by inappropriately zoning these parcels for uses that are not realistic or appropriate for the location. Silver City has no way to support (nor would they welcome) 600+ residences, which is the previous permitted use under suburban residential. It’s a sneaky way to keep property from being developed.

    If the CRA were serious about compromise, they would have availed themselves of the many opportunities that have been presented already by CMI. They aren’t, so these arguments are just a smokescreen, and the commissioners saw through it.

    Oh, and politicalphd, you must not have been at the meetings to hear the Lyon County (and specifically Silver City) residents who found jobs with CMI- I know half a dozen of them personally. As well as the local contractors and suppliers who are being used by the mine. Over 40% of CMI’s employees live in either Lyon or Storey County, with many others in surrounding communities.

    • Quest Lakes says:

      Seems kind of funny that someone posting under a false name is throwing around the adjective “sneaky.” It is hardly “sneaky” for residents to advocate for their community to stay residential rather than industrial, when that is precisely the land use and zoning assurance that has been upheld by officials through the 1971 Lyon County General Plan; the 1986 Nevex decision; the 1990 Lyon County Master Plan-Silver City; the 2002 West Central Lyon County Final Land Use Plan; and the 2010 Lyon County Comprehensive Master Plan. In the Commissioner’s board packet for Jan. 2, you can find Erich Obermayr’s study of the history of the Dayton Con mill area, which clarifies that although CMI implies that “the entire 40 year planning process has been marked by errors and confusion, and the resulting land use designations run counter to the property’s continuous mining use…there were no errors or confusion involved.” His research showed that “there have been, over a period of more than 60 years, two examples of mining activity at the Dayton, one sometime between 1950 and 1955, and one during the 1960s. The scope and duration of the former is unknown, while the later consisted of excavation in a single adit. Neither rose to the level of being noted by or reported to any state agency. Over the same six decades, there were three or possibly four drilling projects on the Dayton property. Calling these mining is problematic because their ultimate objective—mining—has not been permitted on the property since 1971. In fact, as noted previously, mining at the Dayton was specifically rejected by the Lyon County Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners in 1986. This action was taken despite the fact that—according to the Silver City resident I interviewed—one of the preceding drilling projects had located a proven reserve of ore. In summary, there is no doubt that some mining activity took place on the Dayton property since the demise of the Dayton Consolidated Mines Company. And there is no doubt the current and past owners consider it to be a mining property. But contrary to the application’s assertion, this does not invalidate or even call into question the planning and zoning—including the specific rejection of mining on the property in 1986—that has been in place for more than forty years. There were no errors or confusion involved.”

    • Quest Lakes says:

      Also, Comstockr, at least 5 of the Silver City residents who found jobs with CMI came here from other states, counties or nations in the last few years to work for CMI or its Gold Hill Hotel. Few CMI employees in Silver City are long term residents with investments and sweat equity in their homes and properties. Silver City is home to an unusually entrepreneurial, resourceful, and energetic group, and we’re a little tired of the constant innuendo that CMI is “helping us.” As Silver City resident Joe McCarthy so aptly phrased it, “Historic preservation and predictable planning foster economic health and social stability…. Because of the certainty [Lyon County’s master planning has] provided, Silver City has remade itself from a mining ghost town, into a prosperous residential community. With sweat equity, the town has re-imagined the impediments of geography, limited infrastructure, and aging improvements as assets, tapping into existing talents to unearth a well-spring of community pride and initiative. Our current residential zoning has been the principle catalyst for this boot strapping of residential development, wealth creation, and private investment. With all this talk of promised historic preservation, Silver City has quietly, without fan fare, preserved its irreplacable heritage. Since the 1960’s, Silver City residents have rehabed, restored, and rebuilt most of the historic buildings, turning them into architecturally unique residences. Today the town is a checkerboard of historic buildings and energy efficient homes on hillsides. All of this was successfully engineered on a topography no less difficult than that of the Dayon Con property. In time, we in Silver City hope this property has ownership that recognizes the intrinsic value of this current master plan and takes advantage of it just like the rest of us did.”

    • VC NV says:


      How’s that Kool Aid?

  4. politicalphd says:

    Well, there is this “employ everyone” lack of mentality almost everywhere in this country, and, this is what leads to persons that shouldn’t be in jobs that can do massive damage, actually being in positions to change common sense, to “employ the masses”. The other side of this is, governments are extremely money hungry, and, those in power firmly believe that every effort to “creatre jobs” is gospel good.

    The exact opposite is usually the real normal for those kinds of situations. Usually, we all hear that this or that effort will “bring billions of jobs to the area, trillions of dollars into that local economy”, when, in truth, no new jobs are ceated, workers are brought in frommother areas simply because they hqave the certifications to do that specific work, and, that pay money ISN’T spent in the area that business effort is actually located in.

    CMI is one of those businesses that will not create many, if any at all new jobs, from Lyon County ‘workers’ (most likely, there won’t be ANY new Lyon County residents working in the LC CMI mines), nor significantly help any local economic situation in Lyon County.

    If jobs and/or mining income for both that Silver City local area of Lyon County, and, local/county government, actually were the intention of those legislators that did approve the measure, that effort is sadly, dead wrong.

    A CMI bill of goods was sold, and, those in Lyon County government bought it, lock, stock, and NO help what so ever for Lyon County. The losers, Lyon County residents that will not gain any help from the lack of monies this effort will not contribute to, and, the residents of Silver City that will be stuck with this nightmare for many years to come, with absolutely NO help in getting out of, and, away from decades of CMI disruption of their peace and quiet, and, most facts of their lives.

  5. Richard Foley says:

    Nancy, thanks for keeping us informed. It is apparent that very little changes in Lyon Co. I applaud the commissioners that are not for sale.

  6. ssnvme says:

    Thank you for continuing to clarify the obvious so as to explain it at a level low enough for even the Commissioners to understand it. Maybe.

  7. Malala says:

    High five Nancy! I only wish the facts weren’t so dismal.

  8. Wayne Bachand says:

    thank you

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