Comstock Mining update January 15, 2014

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   At its regularly scheduled meeting on January 2, the Lyon County Commission broke all precedent by ignoring its Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny Comstock Mining Inc’s Master Plan Amendment and Zoning change requests for Silver City. Instead, the Commissioners voted 4-1 to impose a “compromise” made between CMI and Commissioner Vida Keller to reduce the size of the acreage affected.

Ground Zero: the Dayton Con
Ground Zero: the Dayton Con

   Unfortunately, Silver City was not invited to participate in making this compromise, and so gets nothing from it except the intimation of doom. The door has been opened for CMI to pit mine in and adjacent to the town. Even if CMI fails, it can still be pit mined by someone else at some future time.

    Every property in and adjacent to town was suddenly made more vulnerable and less valuable. That’s a high price for the people of Silver City to pay for a “compromise” that doesn’t include them.

    How it was done: I defer to Nancy Dallas, who follows Lyon County affairs from her News Desk and is more knowledgable on this topic than I. Here is her report, titled “Master Plan integrity loses to money & power”.

    In addition, here are videos of various participants in the Lyon County Commission meeting January 2: Commissioner Vida Keller (she is an officer in the business managed by her husband, a contractor for CMI), Commissioner Bob Hastings (recipient of $17,500 in campaign contributions from John V. Winfield-controlled companies) and several public comments.

    A few days later Nancy Dallas posted a second report on how this calamity was brought about. Read it here: CMI Compromise — Commissioner Keller’s part

    In fact the Commission’s action prompted some serious media excitement in the local neighborhood. You can read the news coverage here.

    A Silver City meeting to confront the situation was shocked to a sudden stop when a much-respected citizen revealed involvement with a CMI-inspired under-the-radar “focus group” charged with ironing out the problems between the company and the people of the town.

    This surprise prompted some heated words, and several participants walked out. Thus CMI’s divisive presence is attempting to make another crack in the community’s unanimity. But it’s not an easy place to fragment with schemes like this, as this unexpected and generally unwelcome company initiative shows.

    Complaints are being prepared against Keller and Hastings for the Ethics Commission. At the same time a request is being formulated to the Commissioners to rescind their vote of January 2 and refer the matter back to the Planning Commission.

    One thing we have learned from this experience so far is that no-one is defending the Virginia City National Historic Landmark except us. We traveled to Las Vegas a couple of years ago to take part in a Preserve Nevada program at which we presented the plight of the Landmark to an audience that included big shots from the National Park Service. They expressed great interest and sympathy but had nothing to offer as a remedy beyond “writing our congressmen”. Yawn.

    The state has been no better, maybe a little worse because closer to the problem. There is a state agency called the Comstock Historic District Commission which conducts its business from the spiffy yellow museum with the locomotive inside, more or less where the V&T railroad yard began on E Street. Under the listless 30-year administration of Ron James as State Historic Preservation Officer, the federal Historic Landmark and the state Historic District fell into unarrested decay. Our correspondence with state legislators goes unanswered these days.

    But maybe Storey County has been the worst of all. Lower Gold Hill has been simply given up to open pit mining at the expense of the local residents. We pay our Commissioners their generous wages and provide their serious bennies after giving them enough votes to take office, and in return they pay us no mind.

    Not even when 400 residents of Virginia City and Gold Hill signed a petition to prevent open pit mining did they acknowledge the citizens who live here and who bear the brunt of their decisions.

    When CMI’s people broke the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” they had made with the Storey County Planning Commission — abandoned it without a word of explanation or apology — the Planning Commission and its staff swallowed their disrespect without a whimper.

    Now the Lyon County Commissioners, with the exception of Virgil Arrellano, have joined Storey in a race to the bottom by abandoning the county’s reliance on its community-created Master Plan.

    If we are to save the Landmark, we must make it a priority to get ongoing safeguards attached at every level . . . not an easy task where it is not valued.

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