Amidst the widespread emotion and disgust, there are so many ethical issues and questions of propriety in regards to the Lyon County Commission vote of 4-1 in support of the Comstock Mining application; but, unless the inevitable legal challenges hold true, the deed is now done. Money and political power won over logic and conscience.
So, what else is new in Lyon County?
For those still unaware, Commissioners Bob Hastings, Vida Keller, Ray Fierro and Joe Mortensen voted in support of granting CMI Master Plan amendments (Commissioner Virgil Arellano was the lone dissenter) that will now allow CMI, or whoever owns the property in the future, the ability to pursue their desire to open pit mine the canyon between Routes 341 and 342. The subsequent zone change requests were then granted – a non-issue at that point.
I did not count, but approximately 60-70 individuals were allowed to give their three minute opinions on the issue. I compliment them for participating in the process, particularly those who lost a day of work and a tank of gas to do so. That does not include the two busloads of CMI supporters who did not lose a dime in regards to gas and work – and enjoyed a hearty breakfast (perhaps more), compliments of CMI.
In retrospect, however, I do not believe for one second that any of this testimony had one iota of influence on the outcome of this issue. If it had, logic would have prevailed – not out and out insultingly arrogant comments/rationale by the four supportive commissioners in their attempt to verify their vote – overturning the Planning Commission 5-1 vote and Planning Department recommendation for denial.
Here are some random thoughts on this embarrassing day for ethics in Lyon County government:
· Top of the list – Commissioner Keller’s behind the scene meeting with CMI on January 1, 2014. No other commissioners or any Silver City representatives were present, asked to be present or were even aware of the meeting. (Well, I imagine a few other commissioners were well aware…) This meeting resulted in a ‘compromise map’ being submitted the day of the hearing and approved by the commission.
o “From what I have seen no one has made that effort to ask for a compromise. I made that effort on behalf of Silver City to try and get a compromise.” (Vida Keller, January 2, 2014 Commission meeting)
o For anyone with any sense of ethics and transparency in government, this statement is the epitome of hypocrisy. Sadly, however, this is also the norm for the Lyon County Commission.
· Top of the list #2 – This is not the first time a Lyon County County Commission has done so, but the absolute disregard of this commission for the Planning Commission and Planning Staff is disgusting. This commission (and others before it) simply rendered the Master Plan meaningless, the Planning Commission irrelevant and the Planning Staff irrelevant. It’s as if there are no brains or logic below those who have been elected to this lofty office.
o After more than four years of staff and community effort, the current Master Plan was approved just three years ago – December 2010. $200,000 was spent on a profession consultant and countless hours of staff time was spent to create this plan. It was approved at the community level prior to being approved by this board (which Mr. Mortensen and Mr. Fierro were members of at that time)
o I am sure Ms. Keller, being as caring as she is for the residents of Silver Springs, was a part of her community’s effort in creating this plan. Of course, I don’t believe she was quite as concerned with Silver City’s community plan as she apparently is now!
o I don’t think Mr.Hastings has any idea of or any respect for the planning process, period!
o Taxpayers of Lyon County (and the Dallas family is one of them) should demand the abolition of expending any funds on any future plans to update the Master Plan – and demand the abolishment of the Planning Commission. I have full respect for both the Master Plan (when upheld) and the Planning Commission – but both are meaningless in the political world of Lyon County when money and power from special interests come into play.
· Commissioner rationale – Individual commissioner rationale for voting in support of the Master Plan change was pathetic and one would think, if any of them had a conscience, they would be totally embarrassed; however, from past experience with such ludicrousness in similar situations, that will not happen. They won!! They will have full support of CMI in all future election endeavors!! Money will buy them future re-election success!! The general public pays no attention to such idiocy!! They are now important (in their own eyes) in the realm of ‘big time’ politics.
o Commissioner Bob Hastings –
§ “Several people have spoken to the master plan process, how we got to 2010, how well it was done, what a great job they did….but for us to sit here and think we created the perfect document forever is a bit naïve. Master plans are meant to be 20-year documents, but there are also going to be times when we find they need to be changed….When we look at changes, look at what Fernley was 25 years ago…same thing with Dayton, its grown a little. We have to have the ability to look at what our situation is now and make changes….we have to adapt or die. For the last five, six or seven years Lyon County has been looking at how we have slowly been dying. Now we have some opportunities. This doesn’t open up anything other than their ability to go ahead, move forward, invest money in their research to determine if this is where they want to go. They have to come back in front us before they make any decisions on what they’re going to mine or how they are going to mine it on their property.
o Commission Chair Joe Mortensen –
§ “My main focus on this issue is density. We have water and sewer issues around the county. Any opportunity we get that an applicant is willing to reduce the density, I think we need to take advantage of that situation. If we can reduce the density that is a plus. At the SUP time, at that time we will make the necessary requirements and restrictions on where and what can happen as far as their impact on the community up there.”
o Commissioner Ray Fierro –
§ “This issue is difficult for me. I am pro-mining, but I am also pro-historic preservation….both of those apply here. (Stated passion for preservation of Consolidated mine and the ‘compromise the eliminated it from the proposal.) Yes (the RR-5) does open the door for whoever asks for a special use permit, but it does not guarantee a special use permit…..I do not know whether the mining company is going to want to do open pit mining or underground….that right now is not on the table. Whichever way this goes, they are not mining today. They are not mining tomorrow….they will have to ask for a special use permit.
§ “We cannot condition a Master Plan amendment. We cannot condition a zone change……..I am trying to look at this wholly from a land use and what the adjacent master planning and zoning is surrounding it. There is already industrial zoned property in Silver City……I don’t know how it got there but it’s still there. From my viewpoint that is more concerning to me than what we have today…..Today we have a master plan amendment. We have to look at what uses are allowed now, what uses will be allowed if passed. Is it a good thing or not for Lyon County.”
o Commissioner Vida Keller –
§ I am hearing from even Commissioner Arellano that as far as a master plan, people expect is going to be protected forever. Well, history tells us zoning doesn’t protect you forever. We go out and do a new master plan every 10 or 20 years – when they get around to it. Nothing’s a guarantee. You take our old master plans and you take the one that was just adopted. There are some major differences between the two. …….Nothing is a guarantee in government. We do our best to protect our citizens, protect the property rights for everybody on both sides. That’s why I reached out at the last minute, the 11th hour, trying to figure out a compromise and that was the motion I put out today…..We have a company before us that I feel is trying to get to a point that they can let us know what they want to do in the future. No decision today is going to guarantee they are mining, they are not mining or they are going to walk away…….the price of gold could drop out tomorrow and they might say ‘you know it was really nice to fight, but we can’t afford to do it anymore. Nothing is a guarantee in life, but what we are trying to do is come to a compromise here…..they are even willing to compromise, even on a portion of one of their patented mining claims to protect a view shed….I think the company is doing their best to work with both sides…”
There is a lot to think about (and comment on) in what each of these individuals said. There is a lot to think about and write about in regards to other discussions, particularly the ‘debate’ between Commissioner Fierro and Silver City legal representative John Marshall; the ethics declarations and the law; CMI’s presentation; and more, however, this article is already too long.
I will continue with my commentary in coming days, but it is all being written in frustration, once again, with the polluted political process – and in sympathy with and for a small community that is being sold down the political sewer – as so much of the Comstock/west-central corner of Lyon County already has been.
Think about it.
Nancy Dallas, Publisher/Editor
NewsDesk (Established January 2003)
10 years of caring!