Despite a standing-room-only crowd in universal opposition, the Sparks Planning Commission ignored the frustration and resentment created by “business as usual” and voted to grant Harvey Whittemore his master plan amendment to ultimately build a “multi-family dwelling” apartment complex in the center of the new Golden Eagle Regional Park.
Only Commissioner Scott Barnes had the guts to defy the Whittemore machine. Nor did he do so to merely appease the crowd. Anyone with an unprejudiced review of the policies, design and intent of the Sparks master plan would see Barnes had, unlike his fellow commissioners, merely followed the standard protocol. The Whittemore request is a square peg in a round hole.
Not a single resident spoke in favor of the change. The only people to testify in support were Whittemore’s hired guns. The city staff, with undoubtedly serious pressure from higher up, gave the commissioners a green light. In some bizarre interpretations, convolutions and outright fabrications, the master plan was suddenly transformed into “a living, breathing document,” “flexible” to the point of worthlessness. In short, they ignored the intent and found excuses to “make it fit.”
Fortunately, ex-city Attorney David Creekman gave some great advice previously, hinting strongly the best recourse is judicial review. Legal council has been retained and, depending on the outcome in the next couple of rounds before the City Council and the Regional Planning Commission, the whole matter could end up in the lap of our courts. A recent decision in favor of the people in Cold Springs gives strong indications of how a judge would respond.
The next step is a review by the Sparks City Council. With both Mayor Geno Martini and City Councilman Mike Carrigan ineligible to vote for ethical reasons due to their close personal ties with Harvey Whittemore’s front man Carlos Vasquez, it will fall on John Mayer, Phil Salerno, Ron Smith and Ron Schmitt to decide.
Whittemore, planning long term, a step ahead, had a $500 per plate “campaign fundraiser” dinner at his Red Hawk Resort three months ago exclusively for Smith and Schmitt, and how they vote may have already been decided in advance.
The low point of the Planning Commission meeting held this past Thursday was the continued contempt Commission Chairman Kendall Mattina has exhibited during these hearings and a remarkably vicious attack, a strange, totally out of place and uncalled for rant at the conclusion of the meeting when she angrily denounced the general public present for their comments, confronted a citizen in the front row for not keeping notes “like she had, four pages worth” and gave away the already painfully obvious fact she was acting in every way an advocate for Whittemore.
This followed on the heels of well thought out and respectful comments of Commissioner Bruce Breslow, who basically said their hands were tied by a favorable staff report.
The net effect of the commission’s action was to further enflame the Wingfield residents who saw with unmistakable clarity what most had suspected.
Government locally has been corrupted by the excessive influence of at least one multi-millionaire developer. How far his tentacles reach is yet to be explored.
Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks, owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing and his radio talk show can be heard Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. on 99.1 FM.