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.)
Developers’ representative Andy Durling 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.
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.)
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:
- 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.
- 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