Washoe Tidbits 2/22/19

Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Meeting 2/19/19 (Notes by Tom Daly)

These are only selected highlights.  Emphasis added by Wolgast.

Sierra County, CA automatic aid agreement – Chief Moore has finalized the agreement as to the limited service area (not the whole county), TM units to respond to fires and the fee to be charged to Sierra County.  The agreement will now be reviewed by the District Attorney and will likely be presented to the Board for final approval in March.  This agreement is much more favorable to TMFPD than the current version.

Gerlach – A report from the District’s consultant Mike Brown will be presented in March on options to provide fire protection to this small community in northern Washoe County (not within the TMFPD).  Chief Moore indicated he is ready to take over operations (from the County) but the financials remain to be resolved as this is a County, not a TMFPD, responsibility.  The cost is about $1 million per year for staffing, supplies, equipment and station operational costs and some needed station modifications

Fleet additions –  Two new 3,000 gallon water tenders are here and being outfitted with radios and related equipment. They should be in service in early March at the latest, with one going to TM#33 Foothill.  The Board approved Chief Moore’s request for $80K for equipment (hose, ladders, tools, radios, etc. ) for the two new Type 1 structure engines due to be delivered in May.  The boards also approved $93K for two new command vehicles, typically for the two Operations Battalion Fire Chiefs.

Automatic aid – For CY2018 automatic aid from TMFPD to Sparks was at a rate of 20 times for each one time Sparks responded to TMFPD.  This imbalance is due to the poor distribution of fire resources by Sparks.  Every time a TM engine is servicing Sparks, it is not available to service taxpayers of the TMFPD.  TMFPD also responds more to Reno than Reno responds to TM.  The automatic vehicle locator (AVL) technology is in place and working for TMFPD (WCSO dispatch) and Sparks dispatch but not in Reno.  Reno refuses to provide the data base to ensure the ‘closest engine’ responds (to fires) per the existing automatic aid agreement.

Stonegate – This City development underway cannot be served by Reno Fire as they lack the staff to do so, even with the developer providing a temporary station (house) and future station (land and building but no equipment or vehicles).  As such, TMFPD will have to serve this community without getting any tax revenue or reimbursement as they TM be the ‘closest unit’ under the current automatic aid agreement.

Truckee Meadows Water Authority Meeting Highlights 2/20/19 (Bill Maggiora)

Bill Hauck discussed the current (as of 19 Feb 2019) snowpack.

  • He said that it was higher than normal by 160 to 175 percent of normal, depending on the area, for 19 February.  This was still way below what we had in 2017.
  • Bill also discussed water storage and Truckee River flow, which they wanted to keep below 5,000 Cubic Feet per Second.
  • Apparently, the available water storage facilities are pretty full and they may need to start releasing water to avoid flooding when the snow melts.
  • Bill said that we had a three-year supply of water stored in Lake Tahoe now.


—> Don’t forget to check out the In the Media page for recent articles and opinions regarding area development.


NRS Fails Homeowners

As homeowners and property owners, we’ve seen the irresponsible decisions made by the Washoe County Commission and the Reno City Council.  These are decisions that detract from the appeal of the area and some of them affect our properties directly.

There is a pretty straightforward process to appeal a decision of the Reno Planning Commission or the Washoe County Planning Commission to the City Council or the County Commission.  But, what do you do when the City or County decide against your interests?  The next step is to go to court with a “petition for judicial review”.  You are requesting a district court judge to review the decision by the City or County.  The statute (NRS 278.3195.4) is written so that:

If you appeal the Planning Commission decision AND you appeal the County Commission (City Council) decision, then you can petition for judicial review.  OK.


If the Planning Commission decides in your favor so that you don’t appeal, but the County Commission reverses that decision, then you may not petition for judicial review.  This makes no sense.  No one would appeal a decision that went in their favor.

The law needs to change to grant standing whether the homeowner appealed the Planning Commission decision or not.  The homeowner needs to have “participated” at the Planning Commission level which could include speaking during public comment.  The avenues available to citizens to change the law are to submit a  Bill Draft Request (BDR) or to amend an existing bill that is in process.  February is late in the cycle to submit a BDR and each legislator only has one “late” BDR that they can submit.  These are prized and there are usually competing interests for the last one.  I drafted a BDR with some legal help and went to the following State Assembly members.

  • Sarah Peters, District 24
  • Lisa Krasner, District 26
  • Alexis Hansen, District 32
  • Skip Daily, District 31

None were willing to sponsor my BDR as their late BDR.

A fellow WRAP activist tried another approach.  He identified a bill that was being considered by the assembly that impacted part of NRS 278.  He contacted one of the authors of AB5, but was told that this bill was not likely to pass and might be withdrawn.  It would not be a good vehicle to implement our change.  I contacted Assemblyman Howard Watts (District 15) by phone and e-mail.  He had a BDR affecting NRS 278, but he did not get back to me before the deadline the next day (2/12/19).

Now what?!  My experience with citizen-driven legislation has not been encouraging.  If I’d been able to start earlier, I would have had a better chance.  But, the issue only became clear on January 17.  There’s always 2021 to try it again.  I’m concerned that there may be a substantial number of development cases which will be tilted against the homeowners in the mean time.  There is also the opportunity to appeal through the courts.  This case could go to the Nevada Supreme Court on the basis of “due process”.  The NRS denies “equal protection under the law” to homeowners.  An appeal will likely be expensive, and the outcome would be unpredictable.  Lastly, there is some interest in revising NRS 278 more broadly.  It is described as a series of patches upon patches such that it is neither consistent nor logical.  At this point, some BDR’s are submitted to address the shortcomings of previous BDR’s.  It is probably time for a re-write that is consistent with best practices.  This has recently been done by several states.

Official Text: (Note: “governing body” would be City Council or County Commission)

NRS 278.3195
      4.  Any person who:
      (a) Has appealed a decision to the governing body in accordance with an ordinance adopted pursuant to subsection 1; and
      (b) Is aggrieved by the decision of the governing body,
may appeal that decision to the district court of the proper county by filing a petition for judicial review within 25 days after the date of filing of notice of the decision with the clerk or secretary of the governing body, as set forth in NRS 278.0235.

Subsidizing Developers 2019

We’re seeing it North and South in the Truckee Meadows.

The Washoe County Commissioners are requesting a $50M bond to increase the sewer capacity in the Pleasant Valley area.  Some of this cost would go to improving an existing sewer plant and to upgrade the existing sewer line.  Some will go to expanding the capacity.  Presumably, the extra capacity would be intended to support the dreaded Sierra Reflections project in Pleasant Valley.  It would bring suburban development to the rural area.  It is a zombie project approved in 2006 and repeatedly extended outside public view.  A detailed account of the $50M proposal has been requested, but not provided by the County.  The proponents claim that the bond will be paid back by developer fees when they start their projects and STMWRF rate payers.

The Reno City Council is considering a $56M bond to provide infrastructure to support the far-flung Stonegate Development at the foot of Peavine Mountain toward Cold Springs.  The developer would like to see funds from this bond available in June.  Proponents of the bond, again claim that the bond costs will be offset from fees paid for by the developer.

Both proposals ask the City and County taxpayers to bear the costs of development at the beginning.  Both proposals have limited recourse if the developer does not complete the projects or if the housing market turns down and the developments are abandoned.  Development is like high-stakes gambling.  The developer may win big or may bust dramatically.  The taxpayers are being asked to front the chips.

Both Sierra Reflections and Stonegate are poorly planned projects that will negatively impact area residents.  Both are only possible due to the favoritism paid to developers by the County Commission and the City Council.  Issues of traffic, area compatibility, flooding, school capacity, and emergency services are not credibly addressed.  The taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing developments that despoil their neighborhoods.  This is adding insult to injury to enrich the developers.  Express your opinion to your City Council member, County Commissioner, or mayor.

Washoe County Commissioners

Reno City Council Members

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.


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