New RTC Chair: Bob Lucey

This is a guest post by Mike Lawson.

This is a summary of the Washoe RTC board meeting on 1/18/19.

COUNTY COMMISSSIONER BOB LUCEY IS NEW WASHOE RTC CHAIRMAN

Among the first items of business at the January 15 Regional Transportation Commission Board meeting was the election of Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey as the new chairman, and the introduction of Reno City Councilman Oscar Delgado as a new Board member.  Other highlights from the monthly meeting are as follows:

  • The NDOT Landscape Architecture and Esthetics Division chief made an informative  20 minute presentation on their program goals and process for implementation with a focus on the northern Nevada projects recently completed. This can be viewed on the county website https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKeK3PizyW4
  • Public comment was given in support of bike lanes on Center and Sierra streets
  • Commissioner Vaughn Hartung requested two consent items be removed from the “global” consent agenda and voted on separately. His concern was what he characterized as “threatening language” with respect to proposed condemnation proceedings required to obtain right of way for sidewalk construction at two locations. Ultimately the items were heard separately from the rest of the consent agenda and were passed 4-1 with Hartung opposing.
  • Because the meeting was held during the government shut down the board was advised by executive director Lee Gibson that $ 2.5 million in Federal Transit Authority (FTA) grant money was delayed, and there would be at least a one month delay in the Spaghetti Bowl project due to a delay in the environmental review at the federal level.
  • Also due to the federal government shutdown, the Senior transit program which is also FTA funded would continue to operate with funding provided by NDOT using State gas tax money in hopes that the State money would be federally reimbursed at some future date.
  • NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon announced his retirement and was not certain who his replacement would be.
  • The board accepted the 2019-2020 program of projects after a presentation on the project development process. This presentation not only explained the process for project selection, it highlighted regional projects of significance that may be of interest. The presentation can be accessed via the same link provided in the first bullet item.
  • A presentation on the bike path/lane alternative under consideration for Sierra and Center streets was made and public comments was provided. It was noteworthy that the public comment was treated as perfunctorily as is public comment at other public meetings in Washoe county, and it is the principal reason citizens continue to feel they are not being heard.

I will continue to report on RTC board meetings on a monthly basis as a commitment to WRAP and our community.

Mt. Rose Traffic Safety Plans

Guest Post by Thomas Daly (ex Planning Commissioner)

Citizens concerned about the traffic safety situation (multiple fatalities in 2018) on Mt. Rose Hwy heard a report by representative of the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and the Nevada Highway Patrol (NHOP) on 12/5/2018 in a public meeting on a variety of possible traffic safety improvements, but without a defined timeline, budget or commitment for doing so.

One of those improvements was to re-design existing or provide new acceleration/deceleration lanes at the intersections of Callahan Road and Mt. Rose Hwy and at Fawn Lane and Mt. Rose Hwy.  Those intersection are set to see an increase of about 6,000 car trips per day when the Ascente development (~560 homes) is built out.  That increase does not include other developments impacting traffic at those intersections, including the zoned for, but not yet at the tentative map stage, development at the end of Callahan Road (another 200-300 homes).  Note that the approval for the Ascente development did not include this requirement, so any traffic safety improvements on Mt. Rose highway will be at state taxpayer expense.

The safety value of long downhill deceleration lanes has been proven at the intersection of Mt. Rose Hwy and Edmonton Drive.  On Wednesday 1/23/2019 @0745 (school day) backed up traffic approaching the Galena High School and new Doral Academy stretched up Butch Cassidy, continued north on Edmonton and then west onto Mt. Rose Hwy.  That condition is routine on school days at that time of day but has been made worse by the traffic attempting to reach the newly opened Doral Academy.

But unlike in previous years the backed up traffic on Mt. Rose highway was not in the traffic lane, but rather was in the new elongated deceleration lane, built as a part of the Symphony Ranch (aka ‘Colina Rosa’) development (94 yet to be occupied homes).  On that morning traffic on the highway proceeded at the normal pace unimpeded by those turning right from the deceleration lane onto Edmonton.

Know, however, that this deceleration lane was not offered by the initial Colina Rosa developer nor was it recommended, much less required, by the County Planning Department, nor by NDOT.  Over the objections of the developer and County Planning Department the County Planning Commission, with the strong support of the adjacent Rolling Hills community members, voted to require this safety improvement as a ‘required condition of approval’ for the then Colina Rosa housing development.  This was an obvious common-sense traffic safety solution that is now working well.  I was pleased to have voted to do so as a then Planning Commissioner.

Let’s hope NDOT will take notice and proceed expeditiously to implement this solution as per their traffic safety study for other intersections in the Mt. Rose corridor and that members of the County Planning Commission recognize that they may be the only ones looking out for you.

Thomas Daly MSc., Certified Safety Professional (CSP), Estates at Mt. Rose

Meeting with Bonnie Weber

Guest post by Tammy Holt-Still.

Reno Councilwoman Bonnie Weber hosted a “Coffee and Conversation” event at the Sierra Sage Golf Course on Saturday, January 19.  She hopes the residents will all work together to make the North Valleys a better place to live.  She announced that she is on the Parks Commission and is excited to improve the neglected parks in the North Valleys. She wants residents to volunteer to help keep the parks clean by having clean up party days.  Also Job Corp had adopted the park by them and she will be working with them to assist in the maintenance of that park.

 

Sierra Sage Golf Course is looking to expand its services to with a “civic center” on a little over 2 acres, which are not used as part of  the golf course.

 

Donna Clountz spoke about senior citizens’ issues and what will be coming to the north valley’s.

 

During the question-and-answer period, Ms. Weber repeatedly answered that she was new or that the questioner needed to talk to past councilmen.

 

A member of the Neighborhood Advisory Board asked her why there wasn’t better-planned development and flood mitigation as local region.  Whether it is the City or the County, we need to work together.  She replied that the City has its issues and the County has theirs.  This was not well received by the audience.

 

Tammy Holt-Still made a number of points to Ms. Weber.

  • She explained the regional planning for the county and the flood agency as it stands now and the direction they want to take moving forward for unincorporated areas.
  • She noted that the City of Reno is moving into the county areas and that it’s going to take all of us to fix the issues out here.
  • She noted that Congressman Amodei has mentioned at both city and county meetings that there is federal money available for infrastructure and other improvements. We need to ask for it.  Ms. Weber agreed and said that the City Council had a recent meeting with him and is doing just that, but she could not give any details.
  • She claimed that there is a lot of misinformation being disseminated by residents, but did not cite any examples. She is likely revealing her pro-development bent with this remark.

 

Swan Lake was brought up by several people and Ms. Weber did agree that the lake should be dry and there are issues that the City of Reno Staff are working on.

 

Ms. Weber did mention about how she would like to see the vacant council position filled.  It was recently vacated by David Bobzien who has been moved to a state-level role on an environmental committee.  She would like to get someone qualified to represent Lemmon Valley and the other areas better.  A resident of Ward 1 was there and suggested Tammy for the vacancy, but she does not reside in the incorporated area.

 

Tammy asked why the City is not doing more to get the developers to develop a more balanced area and not be putting industrial right in the middle of residential.  Councilwoman Weber agreed that industrial should not be there but then said we can’t make the developers do what the city wants. It’s driven by the market.  She is apparently loathe to put restrictions on developers.

 

Lemmon Valley Heights Day in Court – Post By Steve Wolgast

The Lemmon Valley Heights development had a day in court Tuesday, 1/15/19.  Tammy Holt-Still, with the support of the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee, filed for “judicial review” after her appeal to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) was dismissed for lack of standing in May.  The Planning Commission had approved the development with its questionable hydrology report.  The point of the judicial review is to determine whether the BCC’s decision on standing was “affected by other error of law.”  This is the only legal avenue available to most neighbors fighting the county on development decisions.  It’s “shooting the moon” given that Nevada law and (by reputation) Nevada judges favor development.  The best possible outcome is that the court will “remand” the decision back to the BCC to be revised.  Given our BCC, this is not an encouraging prospect.  The hurdles are high.  The cost is high.  The odds are very long.  But, there are several clear benefits.  The county is put on notice that the neighbors are committed to fighting the destructive decisions of the BCC.  The malfeasance of the county is again subject to public scrutiny.  The development work is likely delayed due to the uncertainty of the outcome.  Judicial review can be limited to a review of documents by a judge, or it can include oral arguments as in this case.

As if this weren’t discouraging enough, Tuesday’s hearing was only about whether Tammy had “standing” to file the appeal to the BCC in the first place.  Washoe County added an additional hurdle by filing a motion to dismiss claiming that Holt-Still had to name the developer as a party to the petition and since she hadn’t the court did not have jurisdiction to consider the merits of the case.

The “cast”:

Kerry Doyle (KD), attorney representing Tammy

Herb Kaplan (HK), attorney representing Washoe County

Egan Walker (EW), district judge for Nevada

 

Summary of arguments and positions:

On the issue of standing …

Kerry made the following points supporting Tammy’s standing.  One neighbor within 500 feet submitted an affidavit in support of the petition for judicial review.  Commissioner Lucey’s claim that Tammy was outside the 500 foot radius was prejudicial.  The BCC decided “standing” based on the 500 foot distance criterion.

Herb argued that the 500 foot distance criteria for “standing” is legitimate.  He went on to assert that the developer shouldn’t suffer the uncertainty caused by judicial review: it’s a burden on the property.  He repeated his concern for the developer’s plight.

The judge complimented Kerry on the “quality of her pleading”.  He said that Tammy can’t represent the Lemmon Valley Swan Lake Recovery Committee because of the way the appeal to the BCC was written.  She can only represent herself and her grievance.  He agrees that Lipparelli’s 500-foot distance criterion was arbitrary.  (Lipparelli is the district attorney who supports the BCC at their meetings.)   The Washoe County Code defines an “aggrieved person”, but Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) does not.

On the issue of jurisdiction …

Herb announced that the county had filed a motion the day before to dismiss the petition for a “lack of jurisdiction”.  This project was represented at the CAB, the Planning Commission and the BCC, so all parties must be named consistently from the beginning.  The developer is a party because he has a tentative map approved for the project.  He made the point repeatedly that Tammy was a proponent of a moratorium on new development in Lemmon Valley.  This appeared to be prejudicial.  [Herb is claiming that the developer is a party to the petition and the fact that he is not named in the petition is reason to dismiss it.]

The judge said that he will need to review the question of jurisdiction.  He asked “How is the developer a party to the case?  It is brought against the BCC. ”

Kerry made the point that this petition for judicial review is under NRS 278.3195 not NRS 233B.130 (the Administrative Procedure Act).  There are several arguments supporting the court’s jurisdiction.  Kerry also pointed out that the County wants it both ways, by arguing in another case that Tammy is not a party although she spoke at all the meetings and the developer is a party in this case when he only spoke in public comment at the hearing on the appeal.

What’s next …

Judge Walker instructed Kerry and Herb to file simultaneous briefing on the issue of the Court’s jurisdiction within 30 days addressing the following.

  1. Is the developer a necessary party to the petition per NRS 278?  Based on this, what is the jurisdiction?
  2. Should this case be combined with the petition for Prado North?

The judge indicated that if his court had jurisdiction, he would likely rule that Tammy did not have “standing” for the appeal.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Stay tuned.  The county is unashamed of their malfeasance and the incumbents have all been re-elected.  Neighbors may need to turn to the courts to limit the destruction.

 

 

Prado Ranch North in Court

The petition for judicial review regarding the County Commission’s decision to overturn the Washoe Planning Commission’s decision got its first day in court Thursday 1/17/19.    The Washoe Planning Commission had denied approval of the developer’s plan and the developer appealed to the County Commission.  The County Commission voted to overturn the Washoe Planning Commission decision by a 3-1 vote favoring the developer.  The petition is filed by Tammy Holt-Still and the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee.  This initial hearing was to hear a “motion to dismiss” filed by the developer claiming that she didn’t have “standing” to file the petition.

The petition for judicial review represents a step across the divide separating the political (county commission) and the legal (district courts).  It can be thought of as an interface between two very different systems.  It turns out that this interface is not logical, well defined, or fair.  So, the question about what the law demands seems to get more obscure as it is examined in detail.  The Washoe County code indicates that anyone can petition for judicial review, while the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) are more specific but do not make sense.

Under NRS, Tammy would have had to appeal both the Planning Commission decision (which went in her favor) and the County Commission decision which went against her.  This makes no sense!  Why would you appeal a decision that went in your favor?!  But, the attorneys and the judge agreed that this is what the NRS indicates.  While acknowledging the absurdity of this requirement, the judge was loath to try to interpret the intent of the legislature that passed the law.  He did not want to engage in “judicial activism”.

The same does not apply to the developer.  He can appeal under different statutes within NRS that allow him to appeal with only the County Commission decision going against him.  It is patently unfair.  The judge agreed with this perception.  It looks like Nevada law is written specifically to favor developers.

Cast of characters:

  • Judge Elliott Sattler (ES), Tenth District of Nevada
  • Kerry Doyle (KD), attorney for Lemmon Valley residents
  • Tammy Holt-Still, petitioner
  • Nate Edwards (NE), representing Washoe County
  • Doug Thornley (DT), representing Lansing-Arkus (developer)

Miscellaneous assertions:

NE: The Lemmon Valley petitioner has no standing and is harming the property interests of the developer.

KD: The county is seeming to imply that the property interests of the developer outweighs those of the homeowners who have a long term investment.

KD: There is no “stay” to prevent the developer from proceeding with his work.

KD: This is a unique situation.  The legislature’s intent was to give people more access to legal remedies not less.

KD: The flood mitigation plan for Prado North depends on features of the Prado (South) development which was just denied in the Reno Planning Commission.

What’s next:

The judge will consider the arguments and issue a ruling at a later date.  There may be an appeal in any case.  There is also a possibility that the developer may revise the tentative map for Prado (South) to get it through the Reno Planning Commission to bolster their argument for Prado North.  Kerry suggested to the Lemmon Valley petitioners that they contact their state representatives to get the NRS statute 278-3195 amended to be clear and logical so that residents would know their rights and have the ability to seek relief in the courts.

It looks a little like the Wild West in terms of the law.  There are few precedents that apply to this case which appears fairly routine to a layman.  How could this be “unique”?  It is the logical step to seek legal relief from a county decision.  The Lemmon Valley neighbors may be breaking new ground here.

Prado North Link

Prado Ranch denied by Reno

The Reno Planning Commission unanimously denied an application for a Master Plan Amendment and a Planned Unit Development to the Prado Ranch developer.  This is not to be confused with the Prado Ranch North development that was approved by Washoe County on an adjacent property.  This consideration had been “continued” from December 19 when the meeting was ended at 11:00 PM without deliberations and a vote.  The Planning Commission allowed for an update by planning staff and a statement by the developer and public comment despite the fact that this had been covered on December 19.  Little had changed.  The planner reported that they had done some additional review but that there was no change to their conclusion that this development was not compatible with the land use plan.  The developer claimed that they had addressed all the concerns that were raised, but there were no apparent design changes to their plan.  The public comments mostly echoed the points made exhaustively at the December meeting.

  • The development is designed to prevent flooding on the development.  It is not designed to protect existing residents from flooding.
  • The surface of Swan Lake has risen 3″ in only the last two days.  The coming storm is expected to raise it another 3-6″.
  • Semi trucks will be introduced with the industrial part of the new development.  There’s no regular semi traffic at this time.
  • The warehouses will be far from the freeway so that they must drive through neighborhoods and past a school to access the freeway.
  • Warehouse workers won’t be able to afford these new homes.  The industrial and residential mix does not constitute a live-work opportunity.
  • Traffic is reduced to speeds of 10 and 20 miles an hour as it is.  The Hesco flood barriers are disintegrating.
  • The traffic study was done on a school holiday when parts of Lemmon Drive were closed.  It could not be representative.
  • In some locations, the water table is only 32′ below the surface.  There is an increased risk of bacteria infiltrating neighborhood wells when there is less than 60′ of filtering depth.
  • Re-imagine Reno specifies that “non-structural” solutions to flooding are preferred over detention ponds.  The 100-year flood plain should be preserved.
  • The Prado Ranch plan will add 700 homes, but the waste water treatment plant only has enough capacity for 400 additional homes.
  • One resident was concerned that the wording in the development plan might allow for billboards or large electronic signage.

One resident, Tammy Holt-Still, had presented the planning commissioners with a presentation (prado ranch) of the required findings with an explanation of why the Prado Ranch plan did not meet the findings.

The land owner claimed that he had made every effort to notify the neighbors of the project and that he had made multiple attempts to meet with neighbors.  This was vehemently refuted by residents who were present.

Reno Planning Commissioners Weiske, Hawkins, Gower, Johnson, and Marshall all voted to deny the Master Plan Amendment and the Planned Unit Development application with no discussion.

S. Valleys Sewer Expansion

This is a guest post by Pamela Galloway in the form of a letter to John Slaughter (county manager) regarding the proposal for a new $50M bond to improve and expand sewer infrastructure in Pleasant Valley.  AGENDA (see item 13)  MAP

Request for far more high-quality information on agenda items (thank you)
Dear select commissioners and County Manager Slaughter:
When this item came up yesterday, several citizens testified they were concerned about this, about access to agenda information (staff report), and what it involves.  In response, they were told no one is being required to hook up to sewer, it has no impact on southern septic tank residents, it will be paid for 100% by new hookups, developers.
Commissioner Hartung emphasized the importance of bringing the southern sewer treatment plant up to grade A (or more) – the best possible. (Please tell me he doesn’t want us to drink it.  We had to drink geothermal water in the summertime for 10 years or more to accommodate new growth so I just want to make sure.) It was emphasized that this will come before the Board of County Commissioners a number of times.  A spokeswoman said in addition to improvements of existing facilities, another facility will be constructed by the old Brown School (NE corner of Geiger Grade at U.S. 395).  I write all this knowing you were present but for the benefit of citizens who were not.  Citizens who spoke during public comment included Bill Naylor of Washoe Valley and Ginger Pierce, representing Pleasant/Steamboat homeowners. Clearly important information is lacking about this, causing concern.
I always advocate for the most sunshine possible.  In that regard, and because $50 million is a tremendous amount of money, I suggest this:
The next time this is on the agenda, please provide a line item description of what the $50 million is for, in detail so we all understand these expenses.  Please provide information about who the developers are, associated with what developments, that would pay for this.  Also, please make sure that the staff reports are accessible with the links.  If not, I ask that you just include this in the agenda item. (Sometimes I click on the link and nothing happens.)  Who is paying how much, up front or when? In terms of relining the southern treatment plant reservoirs, I received an email from one community activist asking whether or not we just paid to have this done about 10 years ago.  So I ask that this question be answered, too, for her sake.
All governments need to aim for as much transparency and accountability as possible on agenda items.  (Ditto pay raises and other compensation.  This does not get discussed much during budgets every year.  When I was PIO of higher education I listed all the salaries, pay raises, listed every top official in the university system, including presidents and vice presidents, and outlined their perks such as cars, host accounts, etc.  Nothing was hidden or glossed over.)  I think we should list every union and what it is receiving, including any new benefits.
Thanks very much for your time and attention to this request.  Rural residents in the south sounded an alarm about this item several days ago (SaveRuralNevadaInfo) and clearly we all want to know what the future holds for us.  We are experiencing a way and quality of life vanish rapidly, and do not want to see any dense development enveloping the rural, pastoral valleys to the south of Geiger Grade and Mt. Rose Highway.  I’m sure you can understand that when we hear $50 million in bonds for sewer improvements/Pleasant Valley, alarm bells go off.  We often hear nothing about developments until they are far down the line and all the planners and commissioners know what is coming but the citizens are not informed in a timely manner.
It might have been more understandable to see Reno bonding for the North Valleys, but we of course might need to be educated about this.  It is better to err on the side of too much information than too little.
Thanks very much.  And thank you for your service benefitting the general public.  I know it can’t be easy and I do appreciate your efforts.
Sincerely,
Pamela E. Galloway Virginia Foothills
(Washoe County, NV)