The Reno City Council denied two appeals to overturn the Reno Planning Commission decision to approve the first Stonegate tentative map (first phase). Also, Reno approved an appeal by the developer to overturn the Planning Commission decision to deny a variance for the unusual landscape design requested at Stonegate. This phase is for 671 homes; some on lots as small as 2400 sqft. The meeting was sparsely attended.
Arlo Stockham, Reno planning manager, gave a presentation (Reno-Staff_Stonegate-Variance ) describing the special landscape design that was covered by the variance. The principal change is to locate small basins between driveways to do some infiltration. He reported that his department was very supportive of this change. These basins are likely to be ineffective due to the high water table and the fact that the soil has been graded and compacted before construction.
The appeal brought by Council member Jenny Brekhus was heard first. Since she was an appellant, she did not get to vote on the motions for any of these appeals. She made the following points.
- Reno’s services are shrinking at the same time that demands for services are increasing. The police force has been reduced from 383 officers in 2010 to 327 today. The fire department has been reduced from 345 fire fighters to 234 now. There are now normally 3 police officers covering all of Reno north of I-80 and east of Virginia St. including Montello, North Virginia, Lemmon Valley, Golden Valley, and Stead. The Reno budget includes no increase in staffing.
- This type of urban sprawl at the ex-urban fringes is the least cost effective way for the city to grow. This first phase of the development will result in a “colony” that is far from existing neighborhoods making it inefficient to serve. If the city does not support the appeal, it will further dilute the marginal level of service provided to existing neighborhoods.
- Neither the annexation nor the Planned Unit Development approval by the city obliges it to approve the tentative map. Reno’s master plan states specifically that development will be “timed” so that growth can be supported. It is too early to proceed with this development.
Michael DeMartini brought an appeal based on water availability and the problems related to the high water table in the Stonegate area. He has a property in Cold Springs and water rights from White Lake. He also represents the interests of another property owner adjacent to the Stonegate parcel. DeMartini was advised by Jonathan Shipman (Reno legal counsel) to register himself as a lobbyist. There was some question whether his interests constituted “standing” for his appeal.
- The regional bodies have not studied the impact of importing 2,000 acre feet of water into this basin. He specified the Northern Nevada Water Planning Commission and the Western Regional Water Commission.
- There is no approval by the Nevada State Engineer that there is 1,000 acre feet of water available to support this development. The availability of “wet water” should be confirmed at the time of tentative map approval.
- The water table is too high to accept so much imported water. One sample found the water table only 2′ below the surface.
- DeMartini is willing to work with the developer to improve the Stonegate plan.
Michael Pagni, representing Stonegate, rebutted the appeal by Brekhus claiming that the Planning Commission had thoroughly considered the impact of the development on the emergency services before approving the tentative map. There is no requirement per NRS that the services need to be available for tentative map approval. Reno’s annexation of this property was approved 14 years ago, so now any development there is entitled to all the benefits of being in the city. This could be rephrased “The developer is entitled to a profitable development at the expense of the taxpayers.” Pagni went on to rebut DeMartini’s claims saying that reviews by regional bodies were complete before the Planning Commission approved the tentative map. There was approval by the Western Regional Water Commission.
There were only three speakers during public comment. Robert Lissner, Lifestyle Homes developer, praised the project and supports the variance for modified landscaping. He owns a property adjacent to the Stonegate parcel.
Other concerns were expressed.
- The regional plan shows that “fringe” development is over-represented in Reno. This kind of sprawl is the most expensive development available to the city.
- Wildlife along the eastern Sierras has plummeted. There should be a delay for further consideration.
- Michael Pagni is ethically compromised. He is legal counsel for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, and the Western Regional Water Commission while representing Stonegate which will be a huge water consumer. Pagni has made disparaging remarks about individuals opposing Stonegate and about the validity of existing water rights in his letters.
Council member Weber had to excuse herself which threatened the meeting having a quorum. Council member Delgado was made available by phone. He said he had been following the proceedings online. Brekhus expressed concern that he might not be familiar with the issues if he hadn’t been following the meeting closely. Weber returned shortly.
Brekhus spoke to rebut Pagni’s rebuttal. The developer (Heinz Ranch) has requested that the State Engineer issue a moratorium on new development outside of Stonegate. The State Engineer has done so. The first phase will be completely isolated and very problematic and expensive to serve. Reno should exercise its right under the master plan to condition approval of the tentative map to the availability of services.
Stacie Huggins, developer lobbyist, discussed the appeal of the Planning Commission decision on the variance. She made the point that the 3-3 decision was partly swayed by the distaste for this change to be handled as a variance rather that revising the development handbook.
On the Brekhus appeal of the tentative map the vote was 5-1 opposed. Brekhus could not vote. Duerr was the only “no” vote. On the Brekhus appeal of the special use permit the vote was 6-0 opposed.
On the appeal of the denial of the variance, the vote was unanimous in support of the developer.
The speculation is that the Truckee Meadows Fire Department will end up serving the Stonegate development since they have the closest station. Under the automatic-aid agreement, there is no reimbursement to the TMFD.
The developer got everything he wanted this evening.