Oppose Inappropriate Developments in Our Area – Autumn Wood I and II

Autumn Wood Notice

MONDAY JULY 30, 2018

SOUTH VALLEYS LIBRARY

5:30 PM

Please plan to attend! Learn more about how two proposed developments at the bottom of Zolezzi (Autumn Wood I & II) are inappropriate for our area and detrimental to the rural residential character of our neighborhood. This is the second attempt by D.R. Horton to circumvent the regulations set forth in the Thomas Creek SCMA in our Master Plan as well as building codes and regulations. In the fall of 2017 we had to fight their application to amend the master plan. They did withdraw that application, and have now submitted a tentative subdivision map for Autumn Wood Phase II and a special use permit application for two detention ponds. The Planning Commission denied both submissions and D.R. Horton has filed appeals for both items. We need to make sure that the Board of County Commissioners also rejects these ludicrous plans. We have an opportunity to fight the 12 years of extensions given to the tentative subdivision map for Autumn Wood Phase I. TBD: Date of Board of County Commissioners Meeting which will review the appeals. GOAL OF THIS MEETING: Get everyone up to speed and determine next steps.

More details here: LINK

Bob Lucey’s War Chest

One of the primary tasks undertaken in the process of opposition research is to determine the source and amounts of the opponent’s campaign donations. This is done primarily to understand not only the business interests of the donors, but the monetary “influence” pressed upon the candidate upon accepting those donations. The larger the donation, the greater the expectation of both influence and political sway by the candidate to favor said business once he/she has taken office.

I recently undertook a review of Bob Lucey’s campaign contributions as listed on the Nevada Secretary of State Website (http://nvsos.gov/).   Lucey has received over $110,000 in campaign donations since his 2014 win, including “small” donations (under $100). I was interested in finding the business trends in his donor pool, so I collated information on all the donors/donations above $150 for 2017/18.   This donation pool totalled $97,750.   While collating these larger donations, I noted that most came from businesses and people associated with them, rather than private donors.     I researched each business and organized them into the following groups, based on business interest and specialty: developers, general business, casinos, builders and building supplies, cannabis, lobbyists, lawyers, local government entities, real estate and utilities.   The table below lists these donor groups and their total donations and percentage of Lucey’s campaign funding they’ve contributed:

Donor Interest Group     Donation    Percent of Total
Developers $27,500.00 28
business $18,900.00 19
casinos $11,000.00 12
Builders & building supplies $10,500.00 11
cannabis $7,000.00 7
lobbyists $6,800.00 7
lawyers $6,800.00 7
Local gov’t entities $4,250.00 4
Real estate $4,000.00 4
utilities $1,000.00 1
Total     $97,750.00 100

Here are a few salient facts regarding some of these donors:

It’s no surprise that most of Lucey’s donations come from developers. He and the county commissioners have responded in kind by approving a record number of housing and business developments in Washoe County from 2015-18.   The developer donors include but are not limited to: Symbio LLC (Ascente), Paul Tenguay (Sybio and Ascente) and Mike Barnes (Symbio, NNV1 Partners), Bristol Land Company of CA,Toll Brothers , Lifestyle Homes TND LLC, NNV1 Partners LLC (see Mike Barnes), Park Lane Associates, Reno Land Inc., and Reno Quality Homes.

Builders and building supplies and services companies donating to Lucey include: AVK Company, Builders Association of Nevada, ERGS Inc., Granite Construction Company, Green Solutions Recycling, NV Builders LLC, NV Recycling and Salvage, Inc. and Rubbish Runners, Inc.

The cannabis industry has Lucey’s interest. Benjamin Koppel, a Chicago resident, gave Lucey $5,000 in 2017 after his second (publicly disputed) marijuana dispensary was approved by the County.  Good Chemistry NV, LLC and Washoe Dispensary also donated $1,000 each in the name of cannabis business.

Lobbyists have donated to Lucey: Capitol Partners, LLC and Olivia Sandford, a lobbyist based in D.C. Ms. Sandford is the “legislative director” (i.e. lobbyist) for Marcus G Faust, a “lobbying firm that focuses almost exclusively on counties, cities, water authorities and utility companies in Nevada and Utah” according to the Las Vegas Sun. The Las Vegas Sun also states “Faust prefers to remain behind the scenes, but his fingerprints are on landmark legislation that created the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, a national monument at Tule Springs and a payments-in-lieu of taxes program for rural Nevada counties with federal land. His customers are satisfied: A recent study on lobbyists put Faust at the top of the list for most retained clients in Washington.” On her linkedIn page, Ms Sandford claims a specialty in public lands. Hmmm? Lands Bill, anyone?

Another interesting tidbit: Lucey has received $1,500 from the Whittemore Group, Inc and Chase Whittemore. Chase is Harvey’s son, and is a lobbyist for Argentum Partners in Reno (who work for Newport Land Development, Ryder Homes, and Academica – the shady Florida charter company who also donated $1,000 to Lucey recently, as detailed further below). Harvey is listed as the current Executive Chairman of Whittemore Group. If you don’t recognize former lobbyist Harvey Whittemore: in 2014 he was sent to prison after being convicted of two counts of using employees and family to get around finance limits to contribute to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s re-election bid in 2007. He was also found guilty of causing Reid’s campaign to file a false Federal Election Commission report. At the time, he was developing a master planned community in LV through his business Wingfield Nevada Group.

The two men that own Academica NV LLC, Fernando and Ignacio Zuleta donated $1,000 to Lucey’s campaign in April. These men were caught several years back making very handsome donations to lawmakers in Florida in exchange for greasing the wheels for their business.  (By the way, they have given $27,500 to political campaigns since 2015.)  Academica cultivates links to lawmakers .9 Investigates lawmakers’ connections with charter schools

Academica was also under federal investigation in 2014.  Academica Under Federal Investigation – Cashing in on Kids

In 2017, the State of NV approved the issuance of $31,190,000 in bonds (taxpayer money) to finance the acquisition of facilities and land improvements on behalf of Academica.  http://www.nevadatreasurer.gov/uploadedFiles/nevadatreasurergov/content/Finances/Board/2017/2017-08-08_BoF_Materials.pdf   This is money that should be going to our public schools, but will it? Academica has so far made over $150 million in annual revenue.

Academica: Florida’s richest charter school management firm  2012 article states, ” And despite recent cuts in state funding for public and charter schools, Academica’s schools have prospered financially: One of its chains of nonprofit schools has assets of more than $36 million.”

Last but not least – Casinos. The casino industry in Nevada have their collective fingers in so many business pies, they need their own blog post!   We know that Hugh Hempel, a Harrahs Casino heir, is part of the Ascente development deal. Casinos donating to Lucey include Atlantis, Peppermill, Aruz Gaming America, Inc. and EE Gaming Technologies, Inc.

Do any of these businesses support us existing Washoe Residents to the degree that they support Lucey’s campaign?   In other words, will we profit as much from land development, construction, lobbyists, casinos and cannabis as these business entities will if he’s elected?   What price will we residents pay for ongoing uncontrolled land development if Lucey is elected?   Do these businesses “count” more than we, Washoe Residents who Lucey was elected to represent?   Do YOU feel adequately represented by our current County Commissioners?

Healthy Skepticism

The public has become increasingly skeptical of the engineering reports ordered by the developers and skeptical of the county planning staff that always recommends development approval.  To date, it seems that the Washoe Planning Commissioners have taken the staff’s word that a new development is compliant over the arguments of the residents that it is not; no more.  Here are some examples that the  staff opinions and the developer reports have lost credibility.

June 14 Citizens Advisory Board; topic Estates at Marango Springs, Toll Road

  • One exasperated resident asked “Can you name a single development project for which the planning department has not recommended approval?” County planner, Roger Pelham, was physically reeling from the question and stammered “Lemmon Valley Drive”.  There is no project by that name.  The audience laughed derisively.
  • The CAB found there was “a severe credibility problem”. The motion was to deny the application “lock, stock, and barrel”.  This passed unanimously.

July 3 Planning Commission Meeting; topic Prado Ranch North, Lemmon Valley

  • One attendee mocked the Washoe County mission statement as being a model for western governments. She also observed that the county staff always sided with the developers.
  • One resident read from the North Valleys Master Plan that “Development should minimize negative impacts.” And pointed out the hypocrisy.
  • Staff asserted that the schools were under capacity. This was met with a derisive laugh from the attendees.
  • Commissioner Donschick asked how soon work would be completed on Lemmon Drive. It is presently partly blocked and running at reduced speed due to roadway damage.  Staff admitted there is no schedule for these repairs in the area of the proposed development.
  • The county engineer claimed that the road would be widened to 4 lanes, but then admitted that the plan was only to re-evaluate the road capacity in four years and to decide what to do then.
  • Doug Smith (Mfg. home dealer) pointed out that Lemmon Valley Drive belongs to the City of Reno and that it was safe. Attendees laughed.
  • Commissioner Lawson said that he did not believe the traffic report including the conclusion that traffic would still be within acceptable limits following the development.
  • Commissioner Lawson said that he was not comfortable trusting staff to resolve these major issues with no public review.
  • Commissioner Bruce pointed out that there is presently no good way to evacuate the area.
  • Commissioner Chesney asked when the road improvements would be completed. Staff answered “within 4 years”.  He went on “I don’t want to hear that that there’ll be a study in four years and then another one in another four years.  I’m not comfortable with it.”
  • Commissioner Horan asserted “The infrastructure is inadequate.”
  • Donschick asserted that the sheriff and fire department response times were already unacceptable. The drainage plan depends on development features that are still in the planning phase.
  • The traffic engineer pointed out that the effect of the new development on highway 395 wasn’t their problem: it’s the responsibility of NDOT.  Lawson replied that there must be systematic approach to traffic planning.
  • Commissioner Chvilicek asked of the developer “Why was the project design done to the lowest possible acceptable standards?”
  • The traffic engineer admitted that the traffic study was done on January 2: the day after New Years day. Hardly a day when you’d expect typical traffic.
  • The plan was denied unanimously as not consistent with the master plan.

July 3,  Planning Commission; topic Autumn Wood-II on Zolezzi Lane

The preceding part of this development (Autumn Wood-I) was approved in 2010 and has been granted extensions.  It has not been started: the final map has not even been submitted.

  • Commissioner Horan asked “Can you point to similar developments with duplexes built on the lot line?” Pelham replied “no”.  Commissioner Horan said “So, its not consistent with the neighborhood.” “That would be your judgement call.” Pelham answered.
  • Pelham went on to make the argument that Autumn Wood-II was consistent with Autumn Wood-I. Commissioner Horan pointed out that Autumn Wood-I was just a vacant lot now.
  • Commissioner Horan asked “Why is this plan consistent with the master plan?” Pelham answered “It’s allowed with a cluster plan.”
  • Commissioner Chvilicek “Why not redesign Phase-I to better match Phase-II?”
  • The developer’s plan was denied unanimously as “not consistent”.

Independence Day (Local Edition)

Something more to celebrate.

Wherever you live in Washoe County, your Planning Commissioner defended the special nature of our communities last night … twice!  Remember that the next time the county does something infuriating: your planning commissioner sided with the residents on a tough vote when it mattered.

Prado Ranch North tentative map application denied unanimously.

Prado Ranch North      Prado Ranch  KOLO-8: Prado Ranch Denied

The house was nearly full in the big auditorium.  Consideration of Prado Ranch North started about 7:30 PM.  It was voted down at 10:35 PM.  Most of the time was consumed by residents raising concerns with clear reasoning and delivery.

  • Flooding: the waste water will go to the Stead treatment plant and from there to Swan Lake raising the water level for all on its perimeter.  The area where the developer plans retention basins is already underwater.  Bringing in 1.2 million cubic feet of soil to raise the development and Lemmon Drive will displace water which will raise the level of Swan Lake.
  • Traffic/Evacuation: Lemmon Drive is impassable at one point and hampered with road degradation and reduced speeds everywhere.  Residents are making detours through the  residential streets and suffering doubling commute times and worse.  Emergency vehicle response times are now exceeding 20 minutes.  The traffic study was done January 2.  What does that represent?  Road improvements are tentatively planned for 395, but there is no commitment and no schedule.
  • Incompatibility with the North Valleys Plan: residents live in Lemmon Valley for the rural lifestyle.  They like to see the stars, to keep and ride horses, to keep livestock, and slower traffic.  Prado Ranch represents an urban neighborhood that would be out of place.
  • Schools: they are presently overcapacity in contradiction to the information provided by the developer and by the county staff.

It was impressive.  It was a little unruly, but it was democracy in action.  Congratulations, patriots!

Autumn Woods-II tentative map application denied unanimously. 

Autumn Woods Development  Autumn Woods Blog

The auditorium was mostly empty by the time the Commission convened to consider this development at 10:55 PM.

  • Flooding: the area floods routinely from Whites Creek.  One area resident pays $2500 in FEMA flood insurance indicating a high risk.  Not only does the area flood, but the developer plans to redirect drainage through a 90-degree bend.  Neither the developer nor the county staff could give a reason to be confident that flooding wouldn’t continue.
  • Traffic: the property is next door to the Montessori School on Zolezzi which has 240 students that must be dropped off and picked up every day.  Traffic onto Arrow Creek Parkway is already slow in either direction with the big, new apartment complexes on Zolezzi Lane.
  • Incompatibility: the development design is unusual and new to Washoe County.  Basically, the residences will be duplexes where the shared wall is also the lot boundary.  This is not compatible with the master plan and represents an increase in density.
  • Expired: Autumn Wood-I has been extended 8 years from the tentative map approval.  This is highly unusual and was done during the recession, apparently as an effort to support the local economy.  The drainage from Autumn Wood-II will require a change in the design of Autumn Wood-I.  This should probably require a new tentative map submission for Autumn Wood-I.

We should anticipate that this victory for residents may not hold.  The developers can expect a more sympathetic hearing from the Board of County Commissioners should they decide to appeal.  Catch up on your sleep.  We may need to do this again.