E Pluribus Unum

Of 144 applicants, Devon Reese was appointed to the Reno City Council to fill the remainder of David Bobzien’s term.  The City Council decided on appointing a replacement rather than holding an election for this seat.  Detailed report here.

Wednesday, February 13

The list of applicants was first reduced to 139 when 5 of them did not meet the residency requirements.  Each council member made a list of their 5 favorite candidates.  These were tallied.

Appointment_vote-tally_021319

The top four on this list were selected to participate in an open forum.

Devon Reese, lawyer, worked on labor cases with Reno police officers.

Britton Griffith, manager in the family’s civil engineering firm

Nathan Dupree, Pastor at the Living Stones Church, involved with homelessness

Krystal Minera, bakery owner, manages two radio stations, youngest at 28

Thursday, February 14

There was a forum with the four candidates in the council chambers.  All candidates were asked the same questions selected from a list submitted by residents.

None of the candidates could give a compelling reason as to why they were “running” and why voters should support them.  All wanted to convince the audience that they were “nice people” and advocated for more love and compassion in Reno.

Selected points made by the candidates: 

Nathan Dupree:

  • The mental illness problem is growing in Reno.
  • We need to do more to address public safety including Fire Dept. and Police Dept. issues.
  • He has seen discrimination: you have to truly want to diversify to be able to do it.

Britton Griffith:

  • We need a safe and vibrant downtown.
  • We need more ‘attainable’ housing for people who are working.
  • Growth should occur in areas with supporting infrastructure consistent with the master plan.
  • The at-large council member should make a determined effort to reach out to constituents.
  • The parking codes should be changed to make better use of the available spaces.

Krystal Minera:

  • We need to be doing more to protect victims in the workplace and also protecting victims of domestic violence.
  • We need ‘smart growth’ where there is supporting infrastructure.
  • We should do more to encourage home ownership.
  • We need more emphasis on health services for police and firefighters.
  • She wants to see more of the University in the downtown.

Devon Reese:

  • Reno has had a lot of success paying down its debt and supporting the housing boom.
  • He likes the Re-leaf Program to plant street trees.
  • He wants to see some kind of Community Center in the North Valleys.
  • Reno should be building all types of housing.

Friday, February 15, 2:00 – 7:00 PM

The candidates were sequestered in a conference room until they were summoned to chambers.  Here are a few of their responses to questions posed by the council members.

  • Devon Reese told Councilwoman Brekhus that he could serve effectively on the council after having a lot of experience supporting the Reno police union.
  • Krystal Minera could not describe to Councilwoman Brekhus  the differences between the role of the city manager and the city council members.
  • Britton Griffith said the most difficult part of serving on the Reno Planning Commission was to consider the flooding in the North Valleys because the impact was so personal.
  • All the candidates approved of police wearing body cameras responding to a question from Councilman Delgado.
  • Councilwoman Jardon asked all the candidates if they had ever voted for a candidate from the opposing party.  None gave a satisfactory answer.
  • In response to a question about sustainability, Griffith said she had campaigned against the use of plastic straws in some downtown restaurants.

Following brief deliberations, the council voted unanimously to appoint Devon Reese to the vacant position.

 

 

 

Sewer Expansion & Annexation

Guest post by Pamela Galloway

Reno councilwoman threatens involuntary annexations if sewer services expand

Near the conclusion of a Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency (TMRPA) meeting Thursday (2/14/19), Reno City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus delivered a warning to Washoe County about sewer expansions.  Brekhus said that in her mind, the Toll Road area is a natural demarcation between the city and unincorporated Washoe County. However, if the county plans any ambitious expansions of sewer services hooked up to city sewer, Reno might start annexing areas involuntarily.  She did not spell out which areas.  (Most of the areas of Virginia Foothills, Toll Road, Steamboat Valley, Pleasant Valley and beyond are on septic tanks, and most are on wells.)

The county announced it will seek some $50 million in bonds for sewer. Possibly in response to citizens’ concerns about what this money would pay for, county engineer Dwayne Smith plans to give a presentation to the Washoe County Planning Commission in March.  Residents in Steamboat, Pleasant, and Washoe valleys expressed concern to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) several weeks ago about what is planned.  Commissioners reassured public speakers that they would not be forced onto expensive sewer systems.

 

Reno advances bond for Stonegate

Agenda item D2.

The Reno City Council today advanced a new $54M bond to provide utilities to the Stonegate development at the foot of Peavine Mountain.  This will show up as $54M on Reno’s books.  The proponents expect that the cost of the bond will be more than offset by fees from developers when construction begins.  The Stonegate developer’s lobbyist said he wanted to see bonds issued in June 2019.  Deborah Louchner said the initial cost for appraisals and surveys will be borne by the developer.  The developer would reimburse expenses from a $150k account set up by the City.  This will be the cost to set up the Assessment District there and see if it’s a viable project for the City and the developer (Barnes).  This is not a recommendation for the project, but rather a recommendation to see if this is in the City’s best interest.  Ms Louchner said the developer is very motivated to move forward.  She expects issues in the process to come before the City Council maybe every other meeting.

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus was vociferous in her opposition pointing out that the residents will be paying for the bond if the development does not come to fruition.  She pointed out examples of other bonds that ended up burdening the taxpayers.  She also made the argument that Reno has no way to extend services so far from the city center.  There is presently a single Reno police officer assigned to cover the area north of Parr Blvd.

Councilwoman Brekhus raised the following questions and made the following points.

  • Does the project achieve the goals of the City of Reno?
  • Do we want to set a precedent of underwriting development and the associated risk?
  • The developers used to pay for roads and sidewalks.  Why should the City pay now?  Historically, the developer pays for infrastructure 99% of the time.
  • We need a city policy regarding city bond financing of development.
  • Has this funding process been used elsewhere successfully?
  • Can you find case studies where this worked and where it didn’t?
  • We should have transparency with all the related documents and communications received by the City on the City’s website.
  • This is a 10,000 unit development.  We only built 2,000 units in the region this past year.  The costs of this development will reach far into the future.
  • How affordable will these new homes be after the Special Assessment District costs and the Homeowners Association costs?  The master plan did not envision $700k homes here.
  • She is very concerned about the black-box environment that can be created around the issuance of these bonds.
  • Should the City become the financial partner of the developer?

Councilwoman Weber said she disagrees with Councilwoman Brekhus.  She thinks we should move through this process to develop the policy as we go.

Deborah Louchner, Reno Staff,  said there were case studies showing success with this approach from Clark County.

Voting “yes” to execute the agreement were Delgado, Schieve, Jardon, Duerr, and Weber.

Voting “no” was Brekhus.

Link to meeting video (5:40:00 mark)

Appeal of Stonegate approval

Spanish Springs Area Plan Vindicated

The Washoe County Planning Commission unanimously denied a re-zoning request made for the development of Upland Estates (2/5/19).  This is 46.3 acres of undeveloped property on the east side of the Pyramid Highway.  The developer wants to change the zoning from commercial to suburban-residential allowing for the construction of 129 homes.

The principal concern of the commissioners was the violation of the Spanish Springs Area Plan and the lack of commercial development convenient to this neighborhood.  This is envisioned to be neighborhood commercial with such establishments as a dry cleaner, a beauty salon, or an eatery.  The commissioners shared concerns that the public expressed for traffic management and sewer capacity as well.

The staff report indicated that increased traffic and sewer load would result with the change to residential zoning.  This was countered by the developer with reports showing the opposite, but these reports were not credible.

Upland Estates Staff Report

Rio Wrangler Area Re-zoning Denied.

Thanks to Pamela Galloway for this guest post.

Reno Planning Commission denies dense development north of Rio Wrangler, east of Bella Vista

Following testimony from Southeast Truckee Meadows residents opposing the rezoning of some 189 acres of aggregate pit east of the Bella Vista subdivision, the Reno Planning Commission Wednesday night voted 5-2 to deny an upzoning request.  It would have allowed for two to eight homes per acre on the hillside stretching from the Rio Wrangler Parkway area north past Steamboat Parkway.  The old Mira Loma Road was used to describe the location, an area that has served as an aggregate pit for many years.  (This is on hillside lands parallel to Veteran’s Parkway between Rio Wrangler and South Meadows parkways, and even to the north of South Meadows Parkway.)

Developer 

Developers’ representative Andy Duerling of Wood Rodgers engineering consultants testified they wanted six homes per acre of single family residence (up from one resident per 2.5 acres now along the eastern edge of the meadows.)  It is not in a flood plain, he said, and while no actual development plan exists yet, the next step would be to create a subdivision.  Technically, they can ask for two to eight units, he said.  This land is the eastern portion of the former massive Daybreak development which was rejected recently by the Reno City Council. The Daybreak/Butler Ranch lands have become submerged under many feet of water in serious floods.  So now the developers have returned with a request only for the eastern portion, which is elevated from the Steamboat Creek and presumably away from these flood waters.

Citizens

Long-time area resident Judy Covert, the first in a string of citizens opposing, said this amounts to about 1,090 homes on approximately 150 acres, or 7.5 units per acre.  She asked that this be denied until Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) completes a study of transportation concerns in the entire SETM area.  “Don’t approve any more development until this study is done.”

A wild horse advocate, she and others testified that some 125 horses have been using this area to access Steamboat Creek for generations.  One wild horse proponent said different provisions would have to be made to ensure these horses get water.

Architect Jim Lewis said it was “insane” to rezone lands “before you figure out the impacts”.  Lewis said if there is a faulty road system, it is difficult to repair after the fact.  Mistakes were made around Damonte High School with roads, including the width of Rio Wrangler itself.

Opponent Jennifer Spade said 15,000-square-foot-lots would be preferable.  She asked where the studies of regional impacts are. “To address traffic after density is backwards.  Already it is getting difficult to travel in landlocked areas. When The Loop, the new DMV, and approved but unbuilt developments come on line it is going to become difficult to access Steamboat Creek, she said.

(Note:  Among the numerous developments yet to come on line are Caramella Ranch Estates, which is well over 900 homes, along with numerous apartment complexes under construction, Bella Vista, and a host of others.)  It is becoming increasingly difficult to travel to and from home, Spade described in detail outlining various routes.

(Damonte Ranch resident Traci Wilson, in a nextdoor.com post, said the original master plan calls for some 75 dwellings on this land, compared to the 1,090 sought now.)

One citizen reminded the group that Steamboat Creek and areas around it are loaded with lead and mercury.

Jessica Simkins testified that after waiting 13 years, a new elementary school came online and the day it opened it was at capacity.  “Developers don’t have to pay anything toward the schools.”  Another opponent expressed this same sentiment, saying that in other states developers are responsible for far more in impact fees.  Several mentioned fire services, and one said he has never seen a police car drive down his street.

The infrastructure of the entire south meadows is becoming overwhelmed and does not accommodate the kind of growth being approved.  Several spoke more globally of the need to examine the entire infrastructure, including public safety.

(Pamela’s note: For decades we, the existing residents, have been approving ballot measures and voting to tax ourselves for roads, schools, in some cases public safety, water systems, in some cases sewer systems, flood problems.  Citizens have begun to advocate more frequently for significant developer impact fees to cover the costs of this new growth.)

Commissioners

Reno Planning Commission members Peter Gower, Mark Johnson, Kevin Weiske, John Marshall, and Ed Hawkins voted to deny the rezoning request, while commissioners Paul Olivas and Britton Griffith voted in favor. (Griffith, the Reno mayor’s representative on the commission, is among the 144 applicants to fill a vacancy on the Reno City Council.)

Weiske said staff cannot answer how much traffic is coming on line, so how can densities be increased? “The roads were not designed for this. You cannot make a finding if you don’t know the numbers.”

Hawkins said several times that he was very concerned about the density, arguing that SF 6 (6,000-square-foot lot) is unacceptable. He said it would need to be SF 9 at a minimum in lot size.

Marshall asked how you go from large lot to SF 6? He stated several times that Reno does not need more single family residences, market forces need to push for more densities in other areas, not “developing more SFR on the edge of the city”. Given that there are a range of issues, and given that Reno has an excess of SFR now, “…this is not what we need”.

Several commissioners asserted that the timing is not right for this. Two said they could not make specific findings, citing three. And several citizens and commissioners brought up the Re-imagine Reno master plan, saying this does not comply with the city’s own plan, and what it identifies is needed in housing going forward.

In other actions, the planning commission voted unanimously to approve two other requests:

  1. A Steamboat repower project at the geothermal power plant south of the Redfield campus on some 26 acres. It requires a hazmat special permit. This former mining site will be revegetated, spokesman Andy Duerling said. Noise levels will dissipate at 43 decibels, and the Steamboat Hills will block some of the noise. There is no viable water source for landscaping, he said, and they need to protect the Steamboat Buckwheat, which is endangered. This is in the area of the geothermal steam plume, which will disappear as a result of this project.
  1. A zoning change at Stead Boulevard/North Virginia Street sought by John Krmpotic which amends four parcels on 5.95 acres to industrial/commercial close to this intersection. Citizen activist Tammy Holt-Still said Swan Lake in Lemmon Valley is rising again, flood waters are being pumped onto adjacent property, and no more development should be approved in the North Valleys around Swan Lake until this is addressed.

Aside: Planning Commissioner Marshall brought up the 100,000 dwelling units that are approved but not yet built in the area as part of the reason we don’t need more single family housing stock.  Steve Wolgast

Warm Springs Area Plan Vindicated

The Washoe Planning Commission vindicated the Warm Springs Area Plan when they unanimously denied the Marshall Ranch master plan amendment and the associated rezoning.  The meeting was February 5.

Overview (WMPA18-0006 and WRZA18-0006 Marshall Ranch – Staff Presentation)

  • The property is 1088 acres zoned General Rural which allows one dwelling unit per 40 acres.  Under current zoning, this would allow a maximum of 27 homes to be built.  The number of homes will probably be reduced by acreage that is too steep (154 acres).
  • The location is West of the Pyramid Highway along the Winnemucca Ranch Road north of Spanish Springs.
  • The developer, Ken Krater, proposed to change the zoning to Rural Residential which would allow lot sizes of 5 acres and would permit a maximum of 187 homes to be built.
  • The City of Reno declined to annex the property with a plan to build 2500 homes.  It was removed from the City’s sphere of influence in 2017.
  • The developer planned to place 812 acres into a conservation easement.  It is not clear whether this will be retained given the denial of the project by the Planning Commission.  Given that 812 acres would not be available for development and 154 acres are too steep, there might be only 122 acres available to build.  This would allow a maximum of 24 homes on 5-acre lots.  By the time the conditions of acceptance are met, it will be less.
  • Apparently, the developer is running a federal tax scam.  Claiming that he could build 187 homes on the property greatly increases it’s value.  The tax deduction for conserving 812 acres would be huge if the property is assessed as supporting 187 homes.

Public Concerns and Comments

  • In the opening comments, two residents wanted to see the role and authority of their Citizen’s Advisory Board and all CAB’s expanded to address concerns of residents beyond just development.  The CAB’s used to have broader authority and there were also more CAB’s before recent consolidation.  The changes implemented have concentrated power in the Board of County Commissioners.
  • Regarding the Marshall Ranch project, several residents made the argument that they specifically moved to a rural area to have a rural lifestyle and are willing to drive long distances to services in the process.
  • Winnemucca Ranch Road is only partly paved and is not suited to handle 1800 more average daily car trips.
  • There are 900 new homes approved in Spanish Springs that are not yet built.  Marshall Ranch will compound a bad traffic problem.
  • There isn’t water up there.  That was part of the reason for the rural zoning.
  • If the zoning is amended to allow for higher densities here, there will be a dangerous precedent to violate area plans.
  • Truckee Meadows Fire has estimated that it will take 45 minutes to reach homes in the area.  The emergency services won’t support further development.
  • There is only a single access road with no second evacuation route in case of a wildfire.
  • One resident had the opinion that having the 812 acres preserved in perpetuity was worth the drawbacks of the added development.

Developer Presentation

  • The preservation of the original Marshall Ranch buildings on 40 acres is a benefit to the area.  It will continue to be used for grazing.
  • Setting aside 812 acres for conservation is a great benefit to the area.  The developer’s goal is to get a large tax deduction for this based on increasing the assessment of the property based on the value of the new homes.
  • Their plan is much better than the one they pitched to the City of Reno.
  • He needs 467 acre feet of water for his plan.  He has bought rights to 385 acre-feet and has plans to acquire the balance.  Up to 4 homes may be on wells.
  • The site is outside TMWRF, so he would build a dedicate wastewater treatment plant.
  • He would put in a “community water system” to support future development.

Staff Presentation

  • Staff made no recommendation for approval or denial of the project.
  • This area is a crucial winter range for antelope and is also a mule deer habitiat.  The wastewater plant would be in the habitat for the endangered Carson Wandering Skipper butterfly.
  • Emergency services access would be considered in detail before the tentative map review.

Commissioner Comments

  • The developer provided updated information the day of the Planning Commission meeting.  This is unacceptable.  There is no time to review this.
  • There is concern over EMS access and public safety.
  • It is inconsistent with the Area Plan.

Caution!

The developer is likely to appeal.  The Board of County Commissioners strongly favors developers and will not hesitate to overrule the Planning Commission.  The developer has 30 days to appeal.