Guest Column: County should not OK land swap with Duffield
May 28, 2014
I was very disappointed by the Washoe County Commissioners' decision to proceed with appraisals for the exchange of the Crystal Bay lake access to bring the 1,100 feet of the Incline Flume trail and the "bull wheel" under public ownership.
In my opinion, the May 13 decision to spend county funds and resources on a proposal that so many residents opposed was rushed and failed to explore any other options. I realize this was just the first step in the process, but authorizing costly appraisals was premature.
The proposal is based upon a statute (loophole) that excuses the county from putting the property (public lake access) up for auction because it is small and does not have "an economically viable use to anyone other than the adjacent owner."
I don't understand how the county can make that conclusion. Future use could include a public safety pier, or a pier for a water taxi, several buoys, etc. TRPA can make exceptions for piers that are multi-use. This one would be public use, not just multi-use.
I'm not a lawyer, but I suspect there will be legal challenges to the proposal and use of this statute as justification for giving up this right of way without offering the property at auction or having it revert to all of the owners in the subdivision.
As a hiker, mountain bike rider and kayaker, I see value on both sides of this issue, but there is something basically wrong about taking from one group to serve the needs of another. According to their brochure, the trails group that has been working on the Incline Flume trail has been pursuing an alternative route to avoid the private land. This may not be ideal, but it's better than giving up even a small lake access.
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I have heard that Mr. Duffield is a generous person and I understand his desire to make his holdings more valuable and private. But I hope he understands that public access to Lake Tahoe is already so limited that it must be preserved. Only a few years ago, the county refused to abandon this same right of way.
I think that Washoe County is breaking its pledge to the residents when an access is recorded at the time of the subdivision and later deeded away to only one owner in the subdivision, not returned to all the owners, as would have occurred if this were an undeveloped neighborhood park. If you look at the definition in the Nevada Revised statutes of "neighborhood park," it actually fits this piece of land.
How would you feel if your subdivision had a small piece of land set aside for a future children's playground (certainly not an economically viable use), but because an adjacent owner wanted to put in a private swimming pool and needed the land, the county traded it for a skateboard park in another part of town? This transfer would be strictly prohibited by the NRS.
I sincerely hope the commissioners, after considering all the implications, will respectfully decline Mr. Duffield's proposal. No one is saying the Incline Flume Trail and bull wheel aren't important, but the ends don't justify the means.
Judith Miller is an Incline Village resident.