“If the Nevada legislature made armed robbery legal, would it still be a crime?”
Senator Kiekhefer‘s new bill (SB327) makes some of the worst development and development-review practices legal. It moves decision making into the shadows without public review, accountability, or due diligence.
[disclaimer: I am no lawyer, and I could be wrong in my interpretation.]
In apparent response to a novel development plan advanced by the Stonegate developers, Kiekhefer is proposing to change the NRS to accommodate their specific approach. The Stonegate principals want to sell “superpads” which are tracts of land intended for residential construction which are part of a much larger development. The current process is for a development to be completely designed so that individual residential lots and many details are defined. So, the complete, design can be reviewed for tentative map approval. Engineering reports would need to be submitted to show that there is traffic capacity, water availability, sewer treatment capacity, and flood control before the development can be approved by the planning commission at the tentative-map step. This is the only step that gets public review and public input.
Under SB327, the primary developer can submit a plan for a Planned Unit Development (zoning exception) and tentative map including superpads which have no design details. The primary developer would sell the superpads to commercial builders who would complete the detailed design for these large tracts. This creates a number of issues the way the bill is written. The changes affect the Planned Unit Development requirements in NRS 278A.
- Under SB327, the development is never reviewed in its entirety. Neither the planning commission nor the public gets to consider the finished product. It is reviewed and approved piecemeal.
- If the primary builder grades the entire project but the superpads don’t sell, we have a mammoth scar on the landscape for the indefinite future with erosion and other hazards.
- SB327 is written so that the primary developer may include estimates of water, traffic, sewer, emergency services, and other impacts the development will produce (SB327 9.2).
- SB327 would not require the primary developer to submit his plan incorporating superpads to the planning commission for review. The City or County could designate a manager or other professional to review the plan with no public review. (SB327 8.2a and 9.4)
- SB327 would not require the secondary developers to submit any engineering reports regarding the tract plans. So, no one is responsible for the engineering analysis of the finished design.
- SB327 would require cities or counties to designate a single person to review and approve the secondary developers’ tract plans (SB327 8.2b and 13.1). These plans would not go before the planning commission. The city council or county commission would never vote on these plans. There would be no public review.
- SB327 would only allow the city or county 30 days to approve, conditionally approve, or disapprove a tract plan (SB327 13.1). This is not enough time to seek public input or to get questions answered.
- SB327 would only allow regional agencies 15 days to respond to a secondary developer’s tract plan (SB327-12.4). Unreasonable.
Senator Kiekhefer works for the McDonald Carano Law Firm that represents the Stonegate developer. It is apparent that he is sponsoring a bill specifically to favor a client at the expense of the public interest. This is not the first time his malfeasance has been brought to public attention.
The Reno Gazette Journal reported on December 6, 2017 “In Nevada, Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer voted at least six times this year to advance measures benefiting clients of the law firm, McDonald Carano, where he works as director of client relations.” Link to article.
If I understand this correctly, it is a profoundly scary piece of legislation that could move major development decisions completely out of the public eye.
If you want to contact your elected representatives, you can use these links.
Nevada Senate Government Affairs Committee: Parks (Chair), Scheible (Vice Chair), Orenschall, Goicoechea, Kiekhefer
Senate Committees 2019
Dear Reader, I strongly encourage you to read the bill for yourself. It is less than 8 pages long. You would be wise not to depend on my interpretation. SB327.
Stonegate Approval Illegal? (blog)