Coffee with Devon Reese

Devon Reese met Valerie Truce and Steve Wolgast for coffee Friday morning.  This was partly an opportunity to understand his vote supporting the Daybreak development (after the developer sued the city) and partly an opportunity to get to know him.  Since he was appointed rather than elected, he did not introduce himself to the voters.

Council member Reese made the following assertions.

  • While the neighbors of Wards 2 & 3 were persuasive, he heard from other people who wanted to have the project move forward.  He didn’t tell us who those were who did not express themselves in public.  Devon also stated he had many comments on form letters from those who don’t live in Reno.  He said it was a “balancing act” to judge all the comments he’d received.
  • Reese thinks information isn’t adequately shared on issues before the city council meetings.  Since the Open Meeting Law prohibits the council from meeting in private, he feels like information comes out as a surprise at public meetings.
  • He encouraged the neighbors’ activism claiming that their advocacy had a significant impact on Daybreak.  The number of homes was reduced.  There will be more open space.  Less building in the most sensitive area for drainage.
  • He thinks that Planned Unit Development (PUD) approvals should expire.  He does not like to see zombie projects that remain on the books long after their approval.
  • Reese expects the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA reviews of Daybreak will force additional changes which will likely improve it.
  • Reese has confidence in the engineering reports even though these are paid for by developers and have been frequently called into question.  He has faith in human nature that engineers would not produce a misleading report for a client.
  • Reese doesn’t think it was an ethical lapse to hire Angela Fuss from a developer to head Reno’s planning department.  He is confident she is working in the best interests of the city.
  • Reese claims that there are many bad projects that never get to the city council and that the council doesn’t have a record of consistently approving questionable projects.
  • He does not think the other city council members are motivated by campaign contributions or other venal motives.  He would not be swayed by a developer who contributed $500 to his campaign.  He said “Developers are the only ones contributing to local campaigns.”
  • He is motivated to serve in public office as a matter of public service.  He wants to build bridges and form consensus.  He wants to improve the quality of life for area residents.
  • He will stand for election in 2020 for this “at large” city council seat.  He expects to run an expensive campaign that might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • He will continue his legal practice if elected.  His practice involved union suits.

Valerie is hopeful:

  • Reese stated he values science.
  • Reese stated he believes in public service.
  • Reese stated, “I build bridges and find common ground.”
  • Reese is opposed to renewing the zombie projects indefinitely.
  • Citizen activists need to remind Reese of those words. It’s important they align with his actions.

Steve is skeptical.

  • Who are all the “people” that contacted him in favor of Daybreak?  It is unlikely that they were residents seeking to buy a home in a floodplain.  Any calls he got in support of Daybreak were likely from developers, builders, realtors, and others with a financial stake.  Steve had a flashback to President Nixon claiming that there was a “silent majority” supporting the Vietnam war.
  • As an experienced attorney and a politician (he ran for Nevada Senate in 2016), his faith and confidence in human nature is hardly credible.  He was dismissive of specific examples of fraudulent traffic and hydrology reports.  He wants the neighbors to prove the fallacy of the engineering reports to him, rather than take a skeptical view himself.  His legal skepticism seems directed toward the neighbors.
  • He encourages neighbors to continue to advocate through the “public comment” time in meetings and by contacting council members.  The implication is that he does not want them to take more direct action to effect change.  This works for the status quo which is to say it works for the developers.
  • He might not be swayed by a developer who contributed $500 to his campaign.  But, he might well be swayed by the developers as a whole denying his campaign tens of thousands in contributions if his decisions aren’t seen as “favorable”.
  • The development projects that go to the Neighborhood Advisory Boards and the Citizens Advisory Boards generally go to the Planning Commission.  It is implausible that there are many bad projects that are secretly denied.

“There are conditions of blindness so voluntary that they become complicity.”      Paul Bourget, 1892

Council member Reese is new to the city council, so there’s little to use as a basis to understand him.  He may be a complex person with deeply held views whose actions are hard to interpret.  If you assume that he is an ambitious politician who seeks contributions from developers to win an expensive election, then his votes make sense.  This also explains his criticism of council members who are skeptical of developer claims.

PS Reese has since joined the new Reno office of the Las Vegas law firm of Hutchison and Steffen practicing primarily in area of civil litigation.

Stonegate and other news 11/8/19

Tuesday 11/5/19 Washoe County/Reno Joint Meeting

The Reno City Council and the Washoe County Commission had a joint meeting to decide a zoning change to a single property in the “Reno/Stead Corridor”.  The 1-acre property is behind the Shell station at the corner of Lemmon Drive and Buck Drive.  The request was to rezone it from medium-density suburban to general commercial.  The joint meeting was required because the property is in Washoe County but within Reno’s “sphere of influence”.  It seemed like a big production to decide the fate of a single parcel.  As part of the change, the county had to make a “regulatory zone amendment” for the property.  This required a minimum of three commissioners to vote “yes”.  Commissioners Hartung and Berkbigler voted “yes” while Commissioner Herman voted “no” due to concerns about increased storm run off.  Commissioners Jung and Lucey were absent and not participating by phone.  Chairman Hartung had the county manager call Lucey at home in order to record his vote.  Lucey voted “yes” by phone, and Hartung declared the motion passed.  This appears to be a violation of the Open Meeting Law in the Nevada Revised Statutes.  Commissioner Lucey was not recorded as “present” at the beginning of the meeting, so he should not be permitted to participate after the vote was held.


Wednesday 11/6/19 Reno City Council

The city council denied an appeal to the decision by the Reno Planning Commission to approve the construction of two water tanks by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority on Forest Service land.  The purpose is to support the massive Stonegate development using water from Honey Lake via the Vidler Pipeline.  The appellant (DeMartini) believes the volume of water to be provided to Stonegate through these tanks will upset the water balance in Cold Springs.  The water for Stonegate is not included in the analysis done by the Northern Nevada Water Planning Commission.  It is not included in the comprehensive water-plan process.  Council member Brekhus was the only one opposed.


Wednesday 11/6/19 Silver Knolls

A hundred neighbors packed the Red Rock fire station for a meeting of the Silver Knolls Community Organization.  Their board approved working with a local attorney to file a writ of mandamus against Washoe County.  The commission had overturned the decision of the Washoe Planning Commission to deny the Silver Hills development.  The writ of mandamus is a relatively generic complaint that the plaintiffs were denied due process or “equal protection under the law”.  Attendees had a number of questions, but no apparent discord.

Thursday 11/7/19 Stonegate

The Reno Planning Commission reviewed the first tentative map for the first phase of the massive Stonegate development.  Only a few neighbors showed up but the familiar development promoters all did: Pagni (lawyer for Daybreak), Barnes (developer), Huggins (developer’s planner), Enloe (TMWA), and Smith (county engineer).  Arlo Stockham represented the planning department.  Perhaps even the city was embarrassed at the thought of having Fuss involved with a project she had recently promoted before being hired by the city.

During public comment, Michael DeMartini spoke about his concerns regarding water.  #1: The project brings a lot of water into a closed basin in a pipeline costing $14M.  The Western Regional Water Authority has not yet reviewed the impact this will have.  #2: The water rights are inadequate to support this volume of water.  #3: The mitigation is inadequate.  The water table is too high for retention ponds to be effective.  A second speaker said that he got notification from his home insurer that his home was now in a flood plain due in part to expected development.

A couple of points raised during questioning …

  • Some of the lots will be as small as 2400 sqft with only 5′ deep back, front, and side yards.  One side will be “zero lot line” where the wall of the home is part of the fence.
  • The development will be served by the Cold Springs Water Reclamation Facility
  • Flood mitigation volume to be 1.3X the expected runoff.
  • Cold Springs didn’t flood last year, but the water level was worrisome.
  • Homes will be built with fire sprinklers until the fire station is built.
  • No construction will start until the water-supply pipeline is built; likely in a year.
  • No builder has yet been identified for this first phase.

The city’s planner (Heather Manzo) seemed very friendly with Ms. Huggins.  It does not give the attendees confidence that the project got an impartial review.

The discussion on the dais …

  • Gower is concerned about the air pollution resulting from the dense development.  He doesn’t think the fire protection plan is adequate.  He thought the Planned Unit Development for Stonegate should be amended rather than using a variance to allow the small lots.
  • Olivas is concerned about the maintenance of the detention basins and is also opposed to the use of a variance.
  • Johnson is not satisfied that the project is compatible with surrounding uses or that it is in conformance with the master plan.

The votes …

  • Approving the tentative map (5-1): Velto, Taylor, Hawkins, Johnson, Olivas approving; Gower opposing.
  • Approving the Special Use Permit (6-0): unanimous
  • Approving the Variance for the small lot homes (3-3 fail): Velto, Taylor, Olivas approving; Gower, Johnson, Hawkins opposing.

The tentative map includes the small-lot homes which were excluded when the variance was not approved.  Does this mean that the tentative map is not approved?

PS I got clarification from the Reno planner (Manzo) that the variance was only for the landscaping requirements for the small-lot properties.  The small lots are allowed as part of the tentative map.  The developer will need to landscape the setbacks per the existing code.

AGENDA          VIDEO          Developer Presentation          Staff Presentation

Thursday 11/7/19 Pleasant Valley

The South Valleys’ Citizens Advisory Board reviewed a request to repair a bridge on Rhodes Road.  It has been reduced to one-lane due to damage.  Neighbors raised the following concerns.

  • Traffic flow is poor, and the signs are obstacles to safe passage.
  • The county says the bridge is unsafe, but plan to take nearly a year to replace it.
  • Residents are concerned that the reason to replace the bridge is to allow more development.

The county engineer said that if the bridge were extended from 14 to 20 feet, it would become the responsibility of NDOT.  Otherwise, the county will pay to repair or replace it.  The fire department will not sign off on new development unless the bridge is extended for better emergency access.  Extending the bridge would allow for new development and transfer the maintenance to NDOT.

Going On This Week … 11/4/19

Monday, 11/4, 5:30 PM, Reno Airport

North Valleys Water Management Committee meeting.  This is the committtee charged with reviewing the plans to address flooding in the North Valleys.  This includes plans to disperse water from Swan Lake, limit new run-off, and to make plans to handle waste water.  This committee represents the best hope to avoid flooding again this year.  Agenda: 11.04.19 NVWM Agenda

Tuesday, 11/5, 8:30 AM, County Commission Chambers

Joint meeting of Reno and Washoe County to discuss plans for the Stead Corridor development.  This includes 1,000 acres around the Stead Airport.  AGENDA

Tuesday, 11/5, 5:30 PM, Zepplin Restaurant, 1445 South Meadows Parkway

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County invites the community to give input on the South Meadows Multi-modal Transportation Study.  Announcement: RTC_Meeting_110519

Thursday, 11/7, 6:00 PM, Reno City Council Chambers

The Reno Planning Commission will consider the first tentative map for the massive Stonegate development at the base of Peavine Mountain.  Phase 1A proposes 671 homes of the 5,000 homes approved in the plan.  AGENDA


Fill out a survey reflecting your views on growth and development in the Truckee Meadows.  It is short with room for comments.  This survey is sponsored by a group of neighbors in the North Valleys that is seeking input for development throughout the Truckee Meadows.  They’re called the Washoe-Reno Smart Growth Alliance.  The results will be used to influence the county commissioners.