Changing Times: 6/19/19

This is a guest post by Mike Lawson about the Reno Planning Commission meeting.

The Bob Dylan song titled “The times they are a changin’” released in 1964 should have been playing in the background at the June 19 Reno City Planning commission.

Thanks to the persistence of community advocates and leaders Tammy Holt-Still, Denise Ross, Danny Cleous, and Tim Fada (SP?) who strongly opposed approving yet another warehouse development in a flood plain in the North Valleys, the Reno PC voted to “continue” the applicant request until August 7. Sage Point applicant representative John Krmpotic made the request for a continuance based on the macro issues associated with the north valleys’ development, not the least of which is the ongoing law suit brought against the city by residents because of flooding in Lemmon Valley.

The more thoughtful testimony came from the aforementioned citizens who seemed more familiar with the evidence that the current flooding has been exacerbated by irresponsible development than did the city staff or the applicant representatives. Ms. Holt-Still made an excellent point about the required Clomar or Lomar having not been initiated for the warehouse project even though it would need to be completed before the applicant even requested approval of the Special Use Permit. City staff either was ignorant of this requirement or chose to ignore it. Ms. Ross made salient points regarding the air quality impacts associated with increasing diesel truck traffic and the fact that traffic studies used to justify the project do not account for the cumulative impacts associated with accelerated pavement deterioration on US 395. An insight expected (but lacking) from a city pavement engineer rather than a concerned citizen. Of course, the city of Reno does not concern itself with pavement deterioration on a State highway and the Nevada Department of Transportation has no voice in the SUP approval process so yet another deficiency in the process has been revealed. Yes, taxpayers would be on the hook for accelerated maintenance on US 395 and the associated costs.

During the commissioner discussion on the Sage point SUP request, Commissioner Gower asked for clarification from legal counsel on how the current law suit would impact decisions made by the planning commission moving forward.  The response from counsel was that it would depend on the verdict. Commissioner Marshall pointed out that the more relevant take away from the law suit, regardless of verdict, would be the testimony regarding what the city staff knew and chose to ignore or obfuscate when making recommendations for approval of developments in the north valleys (this is a paraphrasing but captures the essence of the commissioner’s remarks).  Commissioner Gower suggested that it was apparent from testimony during the public comment period that the citizens were much better informed and had better answers than staff or the applicant about the potential consequences of approving the SUP.

It was encouraging that the planning commissioners openly questioned the information (or lack thereof) they have been receiving from staff.  This trend of critical thinking and questioning of the “paid for” applicant reports has been evolving at both the Washoe County and Reno city planning commissions and is a direct result of the community activists that take the time to make their voices heard.  Unfortunately, both the Washoe County Commission and the Reno city council continue to overrule their respective planning commissions and approve abhorrent development that benefits their campaign contributors rather than the citizens they were elected to represent. The tide is shifting, but real change will only occur if we hold our elected officials accountable at the ballot box.  Yes, the times they are changin” but only if we all persist in demanding transparency and accountability from our elected officials.  Washoe County commissioner Jeanne Herman and Reno city councilwoman Jenny Brekhus represent the people and ought to be retained.  All of the other Washoe County commissioners and Reno city council members, including the mayor, consistently represent special interest groups that fund their campaigns and they need to be voted out.

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