At nearly 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, just hours before the Clark County council would vote to dismantle his land-use proposal, Councilor David Madore took to Facebook.
In a 450-word diatribe on his Facebook page, the Republican councilor accused county planning staff of having an “anti-rural growth agenda,” of using “covert software” and of manipulating records to “grossly inflate” the number of developable lots in rural Clark County for the county’s 20-year growth plan.
When the Republican councilor revisited the accusations during the council’s four-hour hearing Tuesday, it was clear that Community Planning Director Oliver Orjiako had had enough.
“Do not, sir, falsely accuse planning staff of denial or covertly presenting information,” the normally soft-spoken planner retorted, speaking over Madore’s attempts to interrupt. “I have worked here for over 20 years. I have been honest. I have very, very talented staff. No one has ever misled any commissioners.”
The interaction was a brief snapshot of more than a year’s worth of drama between Madore and county staff over the preferred alternative to the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update, which will spell out how Clark County’s cities and unincorporated areas accommodate future population growth and employment.
That drama ultimately ended when the council threw out all components of Madore’s Alternative 4 by a series of votes, each time with Chair Marc Boldt, no party preference, and Republican Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Julie Olson in the majority. Madore and Republican Councilor Tom Mielke unsuccessfully cast votes in favor of Alternative 4, which would have permitted subdivision of rural, forest and agriculture lots beyond what is currently allowed.
The board instead created a preferred alternative made up of proposals developed by the county’s planning staff. The council did, however, approve components of staff-created Alternative 2 that also allow for smaller agriculture, forest and rural lots in unincorporated Clark County, despite the Planning Commission twice rejecting those proposals.
Though Alternative 2 does not allow for as much subdivision as Alternative 4, the draft environmental impact statement still indicates those proposals could have significant impact on natural resources in unincorporated Clark County.
But the specifics of the zoning proposal have become secondary to more than a year’s worth of politicking and debate, sometimes emotional, over the future of rural lands. Tuesday was not the first time Madore criticized county staff over the plan and accused them of having an agenda against rural landowners.
The tension between Madore and county staff even drove Boldt to begin crying.
“As we move on, I would wish that we would come together and stop being so mean to each other,” he said, choking through tears.
Boldt later said he was reacting to Madore’s “constant beating” of Orjiako, as well as Deputy Prosecutors Chris Cook and Chris Horne and other staff members.
“I’ve known enough planners and I have my differences, but I would never, ever even think about saying the things that David Madore has said about (county staff),” Boldt said later.
Stewart and Olson also made impassioned testimony against Alternative 4. Stewart, who voted against including the proposal in the preferred alternative last year, said Clark County must comply with state law, and if it wants to help rural landowners, must work to change that law.
“If we believe those state laws impede healthy, logical and progressive growth in this county, then we need to get our lobbyists working on those,” she said.
Olson echoed Stewart, criticizing the argument that being for or against Alternative 4 somehow equated to being for or against private property rights. The councilors can still support private property rights, but must follow growth management laws.
“To couch it in, we’re for or against private property rights, it’s just not reasonable,” Olson said.
Even prior to the official vote, Madore told Alternative 4 supporters not to let the proposal die without fighting.
“If you defend your private property rights, if you do not accept them being taken away from you, defend them,” Madore urged the crowd. “Because I believe you will win again.”
And Alternative 4’s biggest proponents, members of Clark County Citizens United, indicated that they plan to do just that. The group’s executive secretary, Carol Levanen, who called the meeting a “kangaroo court,” and the group’s president, Susan Rasmussen, said they’ll continue to testify on the matter until the plan is submitted to the state. They said they might seek legal counsel to challenge the council’s growth plan.
“It’s flat-out discrimination against a segment of society,” Rasmussen said.
Even with the preferred alternative selected, the county still has several major steps to go through — including the capital facilities plan and final environmental review of the proposal — before the growth plan is submitted to the state. The county’s deadline to complete the plan is April 30 in order to comply with the state’s June 30 deadline.
The council heard five hours of public testimony last week and continued deliberation for its preferred alternative this morning.