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Planning commission debates ‘comprehensive’ vs. ‘master’

It was 20 minutes of discussion about a single word.

When the Planning Commission met on Feb. 21, there was only one piece of new business on the agenda. The commission was set to discuss, vote on, and forward to the city council a change to Title 11 of the Boulder City Code that Community Development Director Michael Mays characterized as the “subdivision section.”

There were two substantive changes to be discussed. First, it was recently discovered that BC code was not aligned with Nevada law. Specifically, NRS 278.320 says that the time period between when a tentative subdivision map is filed and when the final map needs to be submitted is up to four years. But Chapter 39 of Title 11 in Boulder City gives developers only one year for that process. Staff recommended that be changed in order to align with state law.

The second substantive change was also related to time. Currently, Chapter 39 of Title 11 allows for one year for the completion of subdivision improvements. In comments to the commission, Mays said that, given the current reality of extended wait times just to actually receive materials that have been placed on order, one year is not sufficient. He noted that in some cases, just getting materials can take a year and a half or longer. In order to address this reality, the recommendation was to extend that deadline from one year to three years.

Further, it was recommended that the public director or city engineer be able to unilaterally provide an extension of up to one year.

But, before any of that could be discussed, there was a housekeeping issue. It all had to do with the difference between the word “comprehensive” and the word “master.”

Prior to 2003, the overarching plan covering development and land use in Boulder City was called the “Comprehensive Plan.” In 2003, that was replaced with the current Master Plan. However, there are multiple areas in the city code that still refer to the comprehensive plan. And, as city staff was recommending opening up that bit of Title 11, they also advised changing references to to plan from “comprehensive” to “master.”

Ironically, while steps are made locally to align language within city code under the “master” term, the trend in real estate since at least 2014 has been to phase out the use of the term “master” for everything from plans to bedrooms and bathrooms because some find the term offensive.

For example, a 2014 piece from the Philadelphia NPR/PBS affiliate WHYY quoted local activists Tiffany Green and Tim Hannah of Black Communities United as saying they’ve talked about planning efforts in their communities, and people have found the word “master” offensive. “Many African Americans find that word to be insulting,” Green said. “It is a word that was used at a time that was a very bad experience for the black community.”

Eventually, the commission voted 4-1 to forward the recommended text changes to the city council for their approval.

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