The sign outside the county auditorium requests polite behavior. This is consistent with Nevada’s friendly culture which allows friendships across extreme political divides and frank discussions of hot-button topics. I find it refreshing compared to the more hardened ideological positions I saw in the Bay Area. But, there is a time to fight. When your planning commissioner votes to increase the traffic on your road by a factor of 5 because the developer gave him a big discount on a new home, it’s not time to be polite. When your commissioner votes against your appeal because the developer made a big contribution to her campaign fund, it’s not time to be polite. The planning commissioners tell you to show up at meetings and to make carefully researched and reasoned arguments, but they know that it’s just for show: “the fix was in” before the meeting started. Making polite arguments can distract us from exercising the power we possess as voters.
During Valentines Day dinner, the Reno City Council approved the StoneGate development despite unresolved issues of traffic, water, sewage treatment, fire protection, and schools. It’s a slow-motion train wreck like we’ve seen elsewhere, but on a huge scale. It is in character that the City would review it when the public wouldn’t be present. To her credit, Commissioner Brekhus voted “no”. See news coverage LINK1 LINK2 .
The Golden Valley Remediation Plan proposed by Commissioner Herman was not even put on the agenda of the County Commission. She was voted down by the other commissioners. But, if 50 attendees at a meeting insist on an agenda item it must be added (per Teresa Aquila). To add insult to injury, the commissioners voted to replace Herman with Lucey on the TMWA board. Herman voted against the change but lost 4-1. This change will certainly not help south county residents.
If you want to know what the county is doing and are ready to fill your e-mail with announcements, you can go to http://www.washoecounty.us/cmail to sign up for upcoming agenda items throughout the county.
Changing the way the Washoe Planning Commission and the County Commission operate will need to be a grassroots effort. We need to inform and motivate people to effect the change. Against us will be a lot of developer money producing slick ads and spreading disinformation to discredit us and our positions. Our strength comes from the many residents who are enraged, disgusted, or disheartened by the way developments are spoiling our neighborhoods and the Truckee Meadows in general. Part of our effort is to keep the current problems in the public eye.
- Write a letter to the Reno Gazette Journal: 160 words maximum, your name, your city, your address (not published), and your phone number (not published). Use the form on the RGJ website or sent your letter to “firstname.lastname@example.org” Shorter letters are welcome: RGJ will come up with a title.
- Write a letter to This Is Reno: send it to Bob Conrad; email@example.com .
- Post your opinions on Facebook and include a reference to washoerap.com .
Topics you might want to address:
- Development in Washoe County is out of control! There are over 100 approved development projects that have not been built. More are in the works.
- Why don’t the planning commissioners and county commissioners have the discipline to follow the area plans and established zoning?
- Will we have broader, regional flooding problems given the area of the Great Basin that is being paved?
- How do our development plans address the coming drought and the many drought years to come? I have heard that the state regulators laugh at TMWA for their reckless commitments.
- Why is it OK for county commissioners to accept campaign contributions from developers and then to judge their projects? A small amount of the contributions are idenified; the others are hidden using lawyers and lobbyists as middle-men.
- Reno was identified as one of the top 25 destinations by Outdoor Magazine. But, we are developing the Steamboat Hills that are desirable for horseback riding and mountain biking. If we want tourism, we need to preserve the rugged beauty of the Great Basin.
- Pell mell development is supported by the city and county partly because the tax revenues are like a ponzi scheme. This is worsened by the unfair property tax formula that depreciates older homes of comparable value to new homes.
- We have a shortage of affordable housing, but the majority of the new homes are in the $500,000 to $1,500,000 price range. The commissioners say “We need the housing and it’s not our problem if it’s not affordable.”
- Why isn’t there a requirement that some of the new homes are built with solar panels to power air conditioning? This is incorporated in many new developments in California. It’s a benefit to the buyer because the solar system cost becomes part of the mortgage and the utility savings are immediate.
- What about protecting our wildlife? The planning commission ignores the issue of the destruction of habitat for eagles, deer and many other native species; even ones with federal protection.
- Fire services for both Reno and Truckee meadows are presently stretched scandalously thin. How will we support additional residents?
Your letter or post will remind readers of the ongoing problems and motivate them to effect change. As the author, you may find it cathartic to make your point and “get it out of your system”.
We tend to see “development” and “bad development” as synonymous. This is largely a legitimate conclusion in Washoe County. Bad development can bring bad traffic, flooding, school overcrowding, environmental degradation, water insecurity, fire hazard, and loss of outdoor recreation. Bad development impacts the new homebuyers as well. They may be part of the problem, but they are victims too. The Washoe County Planning Commission (backed by the County Commission) has allowed zoning variations and permitted violations of plans and guidelines to allow the bad developments to proceed. They have compounded this by ignoring CAB recommendations and public comment. Talking to our commissioners, I get the impression they feel obliged to guarantee the developers’ profits. They will accept higher housing density and noncompliances to this end. The commissioners seem to accept that development is detrimental to homeowners and that they should accept the loss.
But, it does not have to be that way. Road improvements, flood mitigation, school development and low-impact design can result in new developments that benefit existing residents. How about some playgrounds and bike paths and community centers? Good development is possible, and we must insist on it. Once the majority of the Great Basin is paved and suffering gridlock, it’s too late to enforce our standards.
We are derided as NIMBY’s (Not In My Backyard), an acronym promoted by the real estate associations. I respond that this is not true: we want our standards enforced.