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”.

3 thoughts on “Healthy Skepticism

  1. Thank you!

    On Sun, Jul 15, 2018 at 10:54 AM Washoe Residents for Appropriate Planning wrote:

    > Steve Wolgast posted: “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 ” >


  2. The problem with Planning in Washoe County is each project is approved by Community Development if it meets certain minimum standards. There is no way put all projects into a group and then evaluate the cumulative impact on the community. That is the job of the Planning Commission and the Regional Planning Commission in the case of projects of “Regional Significance”.
    That’s the nature of the Beast. Just hope you keep getting people appointed to these boards that have the community welfare at heart. I can remember several Planning Commissioners that had the welfare of the developer at heart instead and wanted to approve every project.
    Roger M, Edwards, former member and chair of the Planning Commission (8 years) and the Regional Planning Commission (3 years).


  3. Really excellent article Steve. Every time I attend one of these meetings, with residents having to defend their own master plan against inappropriate development, I become increasingly skeptical that anyone employed by the county actually remembers who they are paid to represent – that would be the tax paying residents NOT the developers!!!! I was floored when Roger Pelham stood in front of the planning commission and could not adequately defend his own recommendation. Then he had the audacity to tell Commissioner Horan – as you pointed out in your article – that it would be his “judgement call.” NO – it’s your job as a county planner to ensure that development conforms to the master plan, the codes and regulations. I ask again – incompetence or corruption!?!?!


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