Rural county tears up Nevada ‘innovation zones’ plan

Updated 30 minutes ago

CARSON CITY, Nevada (AP) – In their first public opportunity to voice concerns over a proposal to let tech companies that meet certain requirements create semi-autonomous jurisdictions called innovation zones, Storey County officials presented the idea in a line by fashion line.

They question the motivations of the company which wants to break with its control.

“While I’m sure many would prefer not to have independent government control, we don’t make laws on the basis of what works for one party,” Storey County Commissioner Clay Mitchell said on Tuesday. legislators.

Mitchell and other county officials oppose a proposal backed by Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak that would allow companies that pledge $ 1.25 billion in investment and own at least 78 square miles (202 square kilometers) of land to apply to form innovation zones.

On Tuesday, they featured Storey County as one of the most development-friendly jurisdictions in the United States. They have made it clear that they are supporting a proposal by Blockchains – the main funder of the Innovation Zones proposal which is also the largest landowner in the county – to develop parts of the empty desert inside their homes. borders. But they failed to understand the company’s claims that it couldn’t do it without forming its own jurisdiction.

For nearly a year, blockchains and lobbyists at one of Nevada’s most connected companies have advocated for innovation zones. The zones would be governed by three board members resembling county commissions, two of whom would first be appointed by the company. They would operate outside the jurisdiction of the pre-existing local government and could potentially create court systems, impose taxes, and make zoning decisions.

The company’s proposal met with opposition from skeptics of overpowering tech companies, environmentalists and local officials. Resistance led Sisolak and legislative leaders to water down the proposal until a study last spring. The Legislative Assembly study committee met for its second meeting on Tuesday and has until the end of the year to submit a report on whether to keep the idea under review.

Blockchains and its lobbyists argued on Tuesday that the company has the transformational potential to become the internet of the 21st century. The company says it wants to make Nevada a world leader in promoting new applications of its technology. It hasn’t introduced a product yet, but the blockchain is a digital ledger that can record almost any transaction and is best known for facilitating cryptocurrency transactions.

According to company officials, local officials in Nevada’s third least populated county lack the expertise to oversee their plans and could not do so without modernizing their existing systems.

Storey County rebutted that claim on Tuesday and highlighted its experience in approving successful developments, including the Tesla battery plant in northern Nevada and a 1.3 million square foot (121,000 square foot) data center. square meters) owned by Switch, a global technology company. They said they have repeatedly told Blockchains that they are able and willing to approve new developments and that they will not need new processes to do so.

Storey County lobbyist Mary Walker repeatedly called the idea “Berns innovation zone legislation” on Tuesday, in reference to Blockchains CEO Jeff Berns. She clarified that the company needed innovation zones to attract the investment needed to build its smart city and told lawmakers it was not the government’s job to help a company find investors. .

Walker also addressed the company by comparing his proposal to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was created to create Disneyworld. At one point, Disney told lawmakers in Florida that it was planning to build a city, but ultimately abandoned its plans.

Virginia Township Justice Eileen Herrington told lawmakers she had qualms about the proposed plan to let the new areas create courts because she didn’t think the public could trust their ability to administer justice.

“While the eventual takeover of the area may be acceptable for many aspects of a person’s life, it is a whole different matter when it comes to the administration of justice, which is a essential element of a just society. An effective legal process not only protects suspects and accused persons, it gives victims the assurance that justice will be served, ”she said.

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Sam Metz is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

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