With its population of 1,400, Verdi residents are dreading the plans to add over 3,000 new homes to their community. It will be a mixture of single family homes and apartments adding roughly 8,000 residents and maybe 75,000 additional vehicle trips. The zoning “overlay” to intensively develop the area is the Mortensen-Garson overlay which was approved by Reno in 2004. (Verdi Area Development)
The Washoe County Citizens Advisory Board for the West Truckee Meadows and Verdi Township was packed with over 100 attendees for their meeting on 9/17/19. The first item on the agenda was the Mortensen Ranch development. This is a plan to put 676 homes on 955 acres on a lot bordering on the Somersett development. There will be 700 acres of open space which is mostly too steep to build on. There will only be two access roads to the development with an additional emergency exit that will be gated. The developer said that they were not allowed to connect to roads in Somersett. The developer will be seeking approval for a Special Use Permit and a Tentative Map when they go to the Reno Planning Commission. The project will be annexed into the city. The developer needs an SUP for their development since it is large and also because it is built on a major drainage-way. Angela Fuss was present now representing the City of Reno. This is a new role for her having represented Lumos, a development-engineering firm until recently. Paul Soleagui is the traffic engineer, and he defended his study that indicated that the planned roads were adequate. He is known for defending a traffic study conducted on the Independence Day weekend and another one done the day after New Years.
The CAB received 18 comments from residents who didn’t speak who were opposed to the project. They received none in favor. Residents expressed the following concerns during public comment in the meeting.
- Building on the open space will detract from residences at Somersett.
- There has been a lack of information available to residents about the project.
- The project has higher density than allowed in the zoning and the zoning “overlay”.
- Inadequate fire fighting coverage: the nearest station only has two on staff.
- Access is inadequate for evacuation or for fire fighter access.
- The Verdi elementary school already needs trailers for classroom capacity.
- TMWA bought the local water utility which will pump more water from the aquifer presently used by many residents who rely on wells.
- The taxpayers will end up subsidizing this development for schools and emergency services.
- This developer is not coordination with others who are building in the same area. There needs to be a broader plan addressing the cumulative impacts of the several large developments on infrastructure and schools.
- One speaker listed a number of “findings” (requirements) that the plan does not meet.
- Adding so many homes will undermine the “dark skies” characteristic of the area.
- This plan will violate the zoning overlay requirement to protect the view of the ridgeline.
- The I-80 off ramp is already dangerous: it will be worse with more traffic.
- The roundabout at Cabela’s won’t take more traffic.
- There will be drainage problems through Sierra Canyon.
CAB Chair Borchard asked point blank whether the several developers were coordinating to address infrastructure issues. The answer was “no”. The CAB voted 3-1 to deny (Borchard, DoMoe, House opposed; Lazzareschi in favor).
Also reviewed at the meeting was the Meridian 120 South development. Most of the audience left. Andrew Durling representing Wood Rogers gave a presentation describing the development for “villages 3 & 4”. This presentation is not available to include in this blog. The Planning Commission previously denied the tentative map, but approved the Special Use Permit. The Reno City Council upheld the denial. The developer is now suing Reno challenging the denial. The new tentative map has 14 homes on 15,000 s.f. lots and 64 homes on 9,000 s.f. lots. The zoning is for 15,000 s.f. lots.
There are a total of 6 “villages” including a total of 545 lots. The residents and the CAB members want to see the total plan to assess the cumulative impacts on traffic and other factors rather than reviewing it piecemeal. The total plan was not presented.
- This property acts as a natural sponge to retain runoff and to recharge the aquifer supplying local wells. It should not be made impervious with new development.
- Evacuation in case of a wildfire looks problematic.
- The new plan includes more housing units than previously negotiated.
- It is in a flood plain.
- The local elementary school is already using trailers for classrooms due to overcrowding.
Borchard: this project is not responsible with respect to water. It should be denied following judicial review.
Lazzareschi: recommend approval of the special use permit, but reserve judgement on the tentative map.
The board voted to deny the project 3-1 (Borchard, Viden, House opposed; Lazzareschi in favor)
Last on the agenda was consideration of the application for a special use permit (SUP) for the Verdi Village apartment project. This consists of 11 buildings: 6 are 2-storeys and 5 are 3-stories tall on 10.7 acres. The existing zoning under the Mortensen-Garson overlay is MF-14 which would only allow 150 residences.
- The property is currently an orchard that serves to recharge the aquifer.
- South Verdi Road and Garson Road are dangerous with the existing traffic.
- Increasing the density of this development means that the limits of the Mortensen-Garson overlay are being exceeded beyond the 3,000 stipulated.
- The name “Verdi Village” is an insult to the established community.
- There is no comprehensive plan shared by the developers of the area projects.
- The claim that the development will only provide 20 more students to local schools lacks credibility.
House: the Garson Road bridge will probably not be adequate for this additional traffic. Garson Road should be improved, but Reno is opposed and does not want to have additional traffic on it.
Borchard: three stories is a problem. Downward illumination will be an intrusion on nearby residents. There should be a special assessment district specific to the new developments.
Viden: the developers for the area developments should get together to produce an effective, comprehensive plan for infrastructure. The increasing draw from the large well has hurt existing homeowners.
The board voted to send the comments to Reno without a recommendation.