Silver Hills Denial Overturned (10/22/19)

The Washoe County Commission overturned the denial of the Silver Hills project by the Washoe Planning Commission.  This is consistent with the commissioners’ practice of favoring developers on every proposal.  Commissioners Berkbigler, Hartung, Jung, and Lucey voted to overturn the denial while Commissioner Herman was opposed.


It was dramatic: the county chambers were filled with a standing-room only crowd.  The majority had come to support the developer (Lissner) wearing Lifestyle Homes T-shirts.  Many appeared to be construction workers.  The Silver Knolls neighbors were well represented too.

Trevor Lloyd (county planner) gave a brief synopsis of the plan and went on to detail the reasons that the staff recommended to deny the project.  He appeared rattled by the size and temperament of the audience.  He recalled that the North Valleys Citizens Advisory Board had voted to deny the project as had the Washoe Planning Commission (LINK).

Garrett Gordon (representing the developer) made a presentation refuting the findings of the Planning Commission.  Part of it was to cite obscure references permitting higher density development.  He indicated a number of new concessions by the developer, but not reducing the density.

  • Commissioner Jung asked if there were “claw-back” provisions in case the new conditions weren’t met.  Gordon explained that the developer could be held responsible by not approving the tentative map for the next phase of the development.
  • Commissioner Lucey noted that there was no traffic report included with the project binder.  The developer is offering a one-time fee of $300 per home to support firefighting services and $300 per home to support law enforcement services.  This is roughly $1.1M which will cover very little for new emergency services. 
  • Commissioner Hartung asked whether their flood mitigation would be detention or retention basins.  Gordon said “both”.  Hartung asked whether the development planned for the Stead area was considered in the traffic report.  Roger Pelham (county planner) answered that this was not considered since it is in Reno.  Hartung went on to ask what the developer will do if the Stead sewer plant (RSWRF) runs out of capacity.  There is talk of a new sewer plant in the area.

There was a solid 3 hours of public comment.  There were 31 speakers in favor of the appeal.  These were Lifestyle Homes employees, the employees of subcontractors, realtors, Lifestyle-Homes homeowners, and people who knew Peter Lissner.  They made familiar arguments.

  • The jobs will be good for the economic development of the area.
  • We need more homes that millennials can afford.
  • Lissner developments become great communities.
  • Neighbors in opposition are just narrow minded.
  • Ian Satterfield (TMFPD) spoke in support of the development.  It will provide a new fire house and it would be worse if Reno were to annex the property.

The 22 speakers in opposition also made familiar arguments that had been presented to the Planning Commission.

  • The traffic study was B.S.: it was conducted over the July 4 weekend.
  • This appeal is not a jobs bill: it is a compliance action.
  • Retired Cal Fire Director, Ken Pimlott, said they are replicating the situation in Paradise and Coffee Park that burned with fatalities in California.
  • There’s insufficient evacuation capacity now on Red Rock Road.
  • The funding promised by the developer to widen Red Rock Road is $80M short.
  • Home insurance will show higher risks and higher rates.
  • The NVCAB, the Planning Commission, and the Planning Department couldn’t make the findings.  The Board of County Commissioners must address the findings.

Sparks fly with these exchanges.

  • Gordon asked everyone in favor of the development to stand.  More than half the audience did.  The neighbors booed loudly, causing Hartung to bang his gavel and call for order.
  • One speaker insisted that Commissioner Jung should recuse herself given the interaction he had seen her have with the developer.  Jung went over to the clerk and got the speaker’s information at which point another speaker shouted “She has no right to his information!”  This disrupted the meeting and Hartung threatened to have the second speaker thrown out.
  • One neighbor asked all the supporters to stand.  They did so … reluctantly.  She then asked everyone who lived on the Red Rock Road Corridor to remain standing.  All sat.

Following public comment, Herman stated her opposition based on her promise to the Lemmon Valley residents that she would not support any more projects that imported water into the basin.

Gordon got a chance to rebut the points made during public comment and made no significant new points.

The discussion went back to the dais.

  • Lucey: “Growth is coming, we need to accept it.  This is a well thought-out project.  I was unhappy that the Planning Commission didn’t ask the questions that I had to ask.  Infrastructure always follows development.  Neighbors should be more open- minded and understanding.”
  • Berkbigler: “This is a good project.”
  • Hartung expresses concern about traffic on Red Rock Road and then waxes poetic about his many years of watching the area develop.  He says that “All residents are part of the growth.  If we deny the project, the developer could get approval from Reno and build to even higher density.”

Residents left at 7:30 in disgust.


15 thoughts on “Silver Hills Denial Overturned (10/22/19)

  1. 1,820 units is COMPLETELY unnecessary in this urban area . The Washoe County Commission got this one horribly wrong . The FACTS are there and they chose so oddly to side with the developers . I am embarrassed these people are the best we have to represent us .


  2. Does anyone look at the big picture. We have a shortage of water. Much less we have flood plains all around us. The traffic is Horrible we are about 10 years behind in times in this city. Engineers, Contractors, Architects all want to make money but everyone fails to see that Reno is a big fish bowl Look around homes are everywhere we are going up on the sides of hills and mountains. and we are not making any leeway on freeways , roads, streets or neighbor hoods. Our crime rate is going up and sheriff’s don’t patrol enough out here and there is no emergency road out of red rock. They have a unfinished road behind homes on Osage that leads out to Stead by the warehouses that could be used as an emergency road especially when we had the fire that blocked all of in our neighborhoods. I really wonder who paid all those council people off to get the project going. I know changes are inevitable but be smart about it before approving something that will effect thousands of people and the environment. We still have coyotes out here taking little dogs and killing livestock and other pets out here image more animals and people out here it would just be a buffet for the coyotes. There would be no more wildlife no more owls, hawks, eagles,falcons, birds, quails etc…. No more deer or antelopes. But as long as we keep building for more and more people to come here no one cares about any of those things. NO MORE BUILDING BE SMART ABOUT IT….


  3. How does this preserve the way of life that was protected by the initial denial. It’s really time for this community to start voting these folks out of office! Growth is good for the right area and when it’s managed effectively. If Washoe county had the skill to effectively manage growth in the north valleys the traffic problems and flooding problems would NOT exist!


  4. Nothing saves a community’s bacon like bright, enlightened knowledgeable planners and construction companies who know how smartly built neighborhoods that look good and function wonderfully. Ozzie and Harreitt subdivisions are no longer viable based on land use patterns and natural resource use. Like it or not, most future housing construction will be vertical, not horizontal. Vertical, because everyone from the 2nd floor on up gets a great view of their surroundings and it greatly cuts back on sprawl. A four floor 100 condo mid-rise can sell units for less than $100,000. It’s being done all over Europe and it has made a strong landing in the U.S. The Monterey County (California) Housing Authority has saddled this new technology and it’s a real winner at far less cost than standard home construction. Just Google them. Cheaper homes than wood frame, giving our tired and hungry forests a break from 18th century thinking.


  5. It is clear from these egregious actions by the BCC overturning staff and/or Planning Commission decisions on development that we need to start replacing incumbent members of the BCC.

    Berkbigler is next. She previously proclaimed she would not run for a 3rd term only to reverse herself and is now running. Another lying and ethically challenged incumbent politician who needs to be removed.

    She has also voted to raise taxes (WC-1), failed to resolve pressing issues like the dispatch mess costing us $560K per year in a subsidy to Reno per the County Auditor and approved the Reno/TMFPD automatic aid agreement with terms she expressly told me that she would not agree to, causing TMFPD to subsidize Reno yet again.

    If you know of any opposition candidate(s) for her seat (CD-1), let me know. I want to contribute.



  6. Dear Tom:First, I know just enough to be dangerous because it is not all that much.  My sourcing on this is not Marsha, fyi.  I will not defend her on votes overturning the Planning Commission rulings and agree that BCC has made some bad decisions re development.  That said, I do like her although we do not always agree on things.  That said, let me respond about the fire.  It is my understanding that all hopes of developing a regionalized fire dispatch system are fading fast.  The problem is not Marsha, who has vowed publicly to work on delivering this.  The problem as I understand it is the Reno Fire, a problematic Reno finance officer, and Reno people saying blame the vendor, blame someone else.  All this said, prior this when Reno was discussing moving into the old RGJ building they mentioned having all their dispatch operations moved there.  I said nothing but thought, “That is the death knell for cooperative dispatch.” I have slowly, over many years and many resentments and angers, come to accept that this place is going to be blown out from Bordertown in the north to Washoe Valley and maybe even to Carson City.  To Verdi.  To Fernley, Fallon.  My big fear of an incumbent is that Vaughn Hartung wants to recycle sewer into A+ water and inject the aquifers throughout the area, such as up Mt. Rose.  I have fear that the county cannot pull this off.  Also we all already paid dearly for our water rights, for all the pipes, wells, storage tanks.  We built this system starting about 40 years ago and had county sucking resources away from it sneakily.  So I was happy finally to go to TMWA and do not agree with Hartung trying to do this.  I think he is trying to get our water and our water rights for other areas but that is just a fear. It almost doesn’t matter who is in office because the powers that be will elect enough of who they want to approve expansion everywhere, and more and more densely.  That Daybreak decision in the most serious flood zone is a travesty. Next, and this is totally hearsay, I overheard a woman from Pleasant Valley say she and her husband were buying 40 acres in Virginia Highlands, where they would build a well, haul in manufactured housing and have a variety of animals.  I piped in and asked her why.  She replied: “Because Sierra Reflections plans to put 2,000 homes on the Pagni Ranch.  At first it was to be $1 million mansions but that is not the case anymore.” I just heard this and have not had time to track it down.  Three years ago (Nov. 5, 2016) the ReReno blog wrote this and added this link: Here is your chance to purchase 1177 unimproved dirt lots for $67,100 each.  The remainder of St. James Village and the ghetto Sierra Reflections. Convenient to nothing.  Washoe is usually better than this when reviewing sprawl. I insert this because if this woman is right it is much more than originally planned.  Going back through the years, at first it was to be several hundred homes on large lots, then condos, then townhouses, and now it is back to ????. I am focusing on this for the benefit of Cliff Low, who wondered about TM ideas to merge two fire stations into one located on the northern end of Washoe Valley, somewhere around Chocolate Factory.  If this woman is right and Sierra Reflections now becomes some 2,000 homes, densely placed, it would help explain the $50 million sewer bond, the need for more services placed northerly.  Notice they are “front loading” big sewer bonds north and south and having existing ratepayers pay for these new developments. I will tell Marsha that we need to stop subsidizing Reno period, end of story.  They are not going to cooperate and do what is right.  We even need to ask for a refund, too.  We need to just stop the insanity of the forensics/dispatch ripoff. Next, in terms of Marsha’s potential opponents, there were two names bandied about but now are a question mark.  One was Teresa Benitez Thompson, assemblyman, who has lots of campaign money but might not want to spend it.  The other was a man who is on the Reno Planning Commission. Peter Gower.  Not only was he “all in” for Daybreak, he wanted to know why they did not increase the densities beyond 4,700.  It was shocking to me.  Don’t know what happened to that rumor.  So I have not heard anything definite beyond rumors and speculation on those two names. On the plus side, Marsha does think 3 homes per acre is sufficient, although she goes with more.  I think with sufficient lobbying she could be convinced to stick to this for outlying areas such as the development on the end of Callahan Ranch Road.  Terrasante I believe. In sum I do not hold out hope now for Reno to cooperate on fire matters such as the dispatch.  I agree that Marsha is more pro development than I would prefer, but she will not vote to put anything in a flood zone.  If a big Dem such as Teresa enters the race I would just remain neutral as I like both women.  I would battle against Gower, also a Dem, since he thinks it is fine to put even more people into a serious flood zone.  There are some big plusses about Marsha too, which involve her trying to hold things together in a very bizarre, dysfunctional, fractured environment.  I only pray we do not lose key employees in this.  Some others need to leave or retire now.  I think she does far more handholding and keeping bad apples in check than we might know. Steve, I have wanted to tell you that in terms of the University Farm issues, all the sheep drowned in one flood, I believe it was 1997. They could not get them out ahead of the flood waters.  So it too is not a good place to develop.  What we are seeing I think is evil, placing homes on mercury-laden soils in a flood zone.  I think one test done by RTC in conjunction with placement of Veterans Parkway found mercury six feet deep.  I think Kim Rhodemyre reported this.  So it is not like you can scrape a few inches of soil off the top.  They are going to disturb soils laden with mercury many feet deep. That is it from me for now.                  Pamela E. Galloway Virginia Foothills 


  7. Really makes you wonder. How could this be approved with the traffic issues in the north valleys, the flooding and septic tanks under water.. Red rock in NV is a bottleneck with only one way in our out on the NV side. Corruption at it’s worst?


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