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Posted on: April 18, 2022

Striking a Balance

Water in an irrigation  canal

As a commissioner for over 11 years, I am aware of the growth that is headed to our community and how important it is to continue planning for sustainable development which helps protect and preserve our natural resources, while improving the value of our homes and quality of life. There’s been much talk of fears and concerns surrounding the topic of growth, although we have been strategically planning for it well over 25 years.  

The housing projects Churchill County has been pursuing are for the most modern housing. Proposals presented to the Planning Commission and/or to the Board of County Commissioners are for housing which is higher quality than that of surrounding neighborhoods and would improve overall property values. Our current housing inventory is overwhelmingly single-family dwellings versus multi-family. We envision single-family homes to continue expanding with our population as driven by jobs in our region. In fact, there are developments on the books that would add over 3,000 single-family homes.  

When considering conservation of resources, 400 single-family homes equal a footprint of 100 acres under county code, while 400 multi-family homes equate to only 35 acres of land. Our county has not had a modern multi-family complex constructed in the last 40 years and does not currently have a complex which features amenities such as a club house, pool, weight rooms, walking paths, dog parks, and other quality offerings. We want to be able to provide quality multi-family housing similar to that of which our service men and women, contractors, and veterans of NAS Fallon are accustomed to in other military base communities. We believe our community deserves this kind of quality housing option with amenities that improve quality of life.   

Who are “those people” we are developing housing for anyway? Those people are our active-duty military and contractor families serving at NAS Fallon, veterans, couples, retirees looking to downsize, families, and children who have grown up in Fallon and want to continue calling it their “home” - that’s who. They are the people taking new jobs at Boot Barn, Tesla, Panasonic as well as our hospital Banner Churchill, CC Communications, and our school district. They are also the people who will take the new jobs in Hazen as it continues to see new business development and expansion. Currently, 22 percent of enlisted NAS personnel and their families live outside our community due to a shortage of housing, and over the next few years we expect an additional 1,400 jobs to support the new F-35 aircraft coming here. We believe the people working and serving our community have a reasonable right and expectation to live in our community.  

Where are those agricultural/rural lands that are being gobbled up by development? The only current planned unit development (PUD) submitted this year to the Planning Commission is along Birch and Casey Roads and was an approved development that has been on the books for the past 15 years, before I took office. No agricultural production is in place on this property. The proposed R3 zoning change would allow for 16 units per acre, while planned unit developments approved under current county code already allow for up to 24 units per acre.

Churchill County has worked tirelessly to conserve agricultural land and water through conservation easements. Over 10,600 acres of ag land is under conservation easements, permanently protecting agricultural producing land and water rights. The conservation easement program established in partnership with the Board of County Commissioners and NAS Fallon nearly 20 years ago, protects the base from encroachment while keeping land in agricultural production and water rights in our valley. Our Master Plan identifies the north-west quadrant of our county for development where it may be served by existing water and wastewater infrastructure and located away from NAS Fallon. The county has been steadfast in its values of controlled, sustainable growth, while protecting our resources and rural way of life. 

My family and I are proud to call Churchill County home. I have made my living in agriculture and continue to support and protect agriculture and the rural lifestyle many have come to appreciate here in Churchill County. I have lived here for 50 years and love this community and the people who choose to make their homes here. Growth has come slowly and sustainably with careful consideration. We are working diligently to address the housing needs of our community while preserving our quality of life.

County Commissioner Pete Olsen

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