This letter was sent to the Lyon County Board of Commissioners for the upcoming Jan. 2nd 2014 meeting in regards to the Master Plan and Zoning Change requested by Comstock Mining Inc.
Dear Lyon County Commissioners, Dec. 23, 2013
I have lived and worked in Nevada for nearly three decades, and my husband and I own our home and land in Silver City, Nevada. I oppose Comstock Mining Inc’s application to change the Master Plan and zoning in Silver City not due to any “anti-mining” sentiment, but because the changes could open the door to all sorts of possible industrial uses within our long-established town site, including surface mining, airports; rifle ranges; commercial feedlots, etc. None of these would be appropriate land use within or adjacent to the Silver City town site, which has had the same boundaries since the 1800’s and consistent land use planning for at least 40 years. Changing the zoning and Master Plan would be a capricious move, reducing Silver City to a “sacrifice zone” so that its wealth can be extracted for the enrichment of residents of New York, San Francisco and other nations. Changing the zoning and Master Plan for the benefit of this company would also damage Lyon County’s reputation as a county with consistent zoning and smart Master Planning.
In addition, please consider that the residents of Silver City comprise an unusually productive, innovative, entrepreneurial, community-oriented group that contributes enormously to long term wealth creation in Lyon County and surrounding regions. Our long-term investments in and contributions to the region should be considered through the lens of modern recommendations for smart economic development.
Silver City residents are an asset to Lyon County. An unusually high percentage have skills, awards, and/or degrees in law, archeology, computer programming, visual art, music, theatre, jewelry making, pottery, photography, film making, teaching, academic research, web design, etc. Furthermore, an unusually high percentage of the residents own small businesses and pursue entrepreneurial endeavors in a wide range of specialties. Although you may see few storefronts in Silver City, many residents maintain professional artist studios, operate small businesses from home offices, or own small businesses in nearby towns that generate tax revenue. A number of the artists residing in Silver City have pieces in the permanent collection of the Nevada Museum of Art, one even has work in the Smithsonian, while most continue to have solo and group exhibitions across Nevada and the U.S. – private collectors are eager to buy their work. Many residents of the town have published important research in multiple subjects and are respected experts in their fields.
Lyon County Needs People With Diverse Skills and Expertise: An informal survey of Silver City’s adult population shows that about 70% are in the “creative class”, a socioeconomic class understood to be a key driving force for economic development today in the U.S. This grouping includes those in science, computer programming and research, as well as those in arts, design, media, etc. This class is also composed of knowledge-based workers in the legal and education sectors, as well as business, finance and healthcare. Jobs and economic growth tend to follow areas with a strong Creative Class concentration.
Breaking this observation down further, about 30% of Silver City’s residents are artists, performers, musicians, photographers, potters, or craftspeople; about 15% own small businesses; about 10% work in the archaeology field; and about 15% are writers, attorneys, computer programmers, teachers, web designers, publishers, professors, nurses, etc. People with these sorts of skills tend to create an economic development “multiplier effect” due to their long-term investment in their region and civic service contributions.
In many economic development studies in the last ten years, including a 2002 study by American economist Richard Florida, the Creative Class is noted as a leading force of economic growth due to their ability to spur regional economic growth through innovation, and to attract human capital. An empirical study of 90 countries by Rindermann, Sailer and Thompson in 2009 demonstrated that high-ability classes like the Creative Class contribute greatly to economic growth, stable democratic development, and government effectiveness, rule of law, and liberty.
Civic Service: In addition, an unusually high percentage of Silver City residents contribute to local, regional and statewide boards, volunteer associations and professional organizations that contribute to the well-being of the Lyon County region, including the Governor-appointed statewide Teachers and Leaders Council; statewide Nevada Association of School Boards directors; Lyon County School District board of trustees; Silver City Community Partners; Carson City Symphony; Arts4Nevada Advisory Committee; Nevada Arts Council Community Catalysts; Silver City Community Garden Committee; Comstock Cemetery Board; Silver City Volunteer Fire Department; Stronger Economies Together Agribusiness Workgroup covering a 10 county region including Lyon County; Lyon County Parks board; etc.
Silver City Improvements 1940’s to Present: From the 1940’s until the 1970’s, Silver City suffered slow decay and little care was taken of its historic school house, cemetery, or fire trucks, and there was low community involvement in the town council or regional boards. Since the 1970’s, the town has steadily been infused with new residents who have contributed to steady, positive growth, and numerous improvements to the community have taken place. This thriving and close-knit community within a National Historic Landmark District hosts regular town “get togethers”, including annual Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving celebrations, summer BBQ’s and old fashioned ice cream socials. The town boasts an historic cemetery, a volunteer library, a lovely park, an organic community garden, a beautiful community center with free Tai Chi and yoga classes, a monthly community dinner in which everyone pitches in with ingredients and clean-up duties, a post office, a volunteer fire department, and an enviable educational summer children’s program that is free to youngsters in the entire Comstock region. The town also attracts a good deal of tourism to the region – it is home to the famous Silver City Fireman’s Ball and annual Ferrari Races. It’s historic buildings and sites attract plein air painters and photographers from around the West.
Consistent Land Use: As you know, Silver City is an historical community – the town site was established in the 1800’s. The town has had consistent land use planning for more than 40 years, with the 2010 Master Plan reaffirming that the town is residential, and not suitable for industrial development. In 1986 Lyon County denied Nevex a similar request for mining activity on the same property Comstock Mining Inc. is now seeking Master Plan and zoning changes for.
Conclusion: Short term gain for long term devastation of the historic value, environment, and aesthetic appeal of this National Historic Landmark is short sighted and ill advised. Furthermore, driving away most of Silver City’s Creative Class and small business owners, who are an important source of innovation and economic growth and civic service to the entire region, makes no sense in terms of economic development. Lastly, for Lyon County to thrive economically, businesses, homeowners, and potential investors and developers need to trust that zoning and Master Plan decisions in Lyon County will be predictable rather than reactive or capricious.
Quest Lakes, resident of Silver City