Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bonanza Column 164 – A New Vision for IV/CB

Sometime, hopefully soon, a report will be forthcoming from the Washoe County Community Development Department. The report will, as I understand it, report some statistics and demographic trends that could spell dire news for Incline Village and Crystal Bay. Based on what we've heard of the report so far and other statistics that have been reported, the following seem to be the case:

  • As our senior population, many of them long-term residents, grows older, more and more are moving away to places where they don't have to deal with winter; some will still be here in the summer, and some won't.
  • The percentage of homes that are not owner-occupied year-round has risen over the past few years from around 20% to more like 40% and is expected to continue to rise.
  • School populations continue to decline.
  • The average annual income for working people in Incline Village/Crystal Bay is about $44,000.
  • To live in a 2 bedroom condo in IV/CB requires an annual income of about $110,000.
  • To live in a 3 bedroom house in IV/CB requires an annual income of about $200,000.


If you extend those curves for, say, 10 years into the future it looks to me like IV/CB in 2020 will be a lot like Martha's Vineyard – a collection of homes that stand empty or are rented for much of the year with a small full-time population who maintain things so that "in season" everything is nice for the property owners. The tax base will be there – second homes, after all, pay the same property tax as owner-occupied properties – but not many people and not much of a community.


To some extent it seems to me that development efforts here have been aiming at a fast-fading past. We have outstanding medical and emergency medicine facilities – appropriate to a community with a high senior population – and point with pride to excellent facilities in Reno and the availability of care flight and ambulance service for getting people there. We have terrific public safety services – sheriff, fire, and rescue – and a lot of community concern for the quality of education in the face of declining populations.


We've had periodic bursts of concern for what the community will look like in the future – community planning sessions have been convened over the past 15 or 20 years by IVGID, the ad hoc Incline Vision Committee, TRPA, and others. When a proposal like Boulder Bay or four lanes in Kings Beach comes along there is significant discussion about the impact it will have on the physical quality of life in the community, but despite all these expressions of public sentiment, I haven't found anyone who would say that we have, as a community, a coherent vision of what we want IV/CB to look like in the future.


If you ask people what would attract newcomers to our community they will point with pride to the medical and safety facilities, the quality of the schools, the library, recreation, the beauty of the area, etc., and these are all valid points of pride, but something is missing. If you look at the three income and cost figures cited above, it is clear that only well-heeled people can afford to live here unless they are willing to hold two or three jobs. Lest you think that's improbable, I can introduce you to a teacher in the Incline Schools who has been teaching here for 30 years, lives in a modest condo, and has to hold 2 other jobs in addition to her teaching in order to afford to live in the community she serves.


Let me put it very simply: we need opportunities for people to hold well-paying jobs here in town – that means a lot more businesses that pay well and employ professional and technical people than we currently have. That kind of change will be a break with the history of the community and will require a coordinated effort that can't happen without a clear and aligned vision of where we want to be in 10 years.


We (and I include myself) who are getting older and may or may not see the results of that vision must cede leadership of the community to the next generation. Right now only one IVGID Trustee represents the demographic that is the future of the community – that will have to change. In JFK's words, it's time to pass the torch to a new generation in IV/CB, or in 10 years the place will be very, very different.

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