Meridian 120-South Approved (Mostly)

Wednesday night, the Reno Planning Commission narrowly approved the tentative maps for Meridian 120-South villages 1, 2, 5, and 6.  The tentative maps for villages 3 and 4 were narrowly denied.  The Meridian 120-South development is on the south side of I-80 across from Boomtown in Verdi.  The property has been annexed by the City of Reno within the Mortensen-Garson Overlay District (MGOD).  The maps are for 621 homes on lots as small as 9,000 sqft; 11,000 sqft average.

Water will be provided by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority which bought the local water service that was based on wells (West Reno Water System).  John Enloe said their plan was to bring in water from TMWA with well water during the peak demand period in the summer.  The plan is to build a new fire station using funds collected “per door” from the developer of $1,608.  The developer will provide a site for the fire station.  The first homes will get sprinklers since there will not be a fire station available with a satisfactory response time.  Andy Durling, of Wood Rogers,  gave a presentation representing the developer (021920A).

Heather Manzo, Reno planner, gave a presentation (021920B) and reported that the planning department recommended approval for the tentative maps and the Special Use Permits.  A favorable recommendation can be expected with Angela Fuss managing that department.  The traffic report was produced by Paul Solaegui who is known for misleading traffic reports.  The biggest issue is that there is only one access road suitable for emergency vehicles in the event of a wildfire.  This is a violation of Reno and Washoe codes.  A second access road will be built before the 250th home is built.  This is a condition of approval.

Residents broadly opposed this development seen in 59 public comments both written and spoken.  Residents made the following points.

  • The dense cluster designs of villages 1 and 2 are incompatible with the area that was zoned for 1 home per acre.  The zoning under MGOD is SF-15 (15,000 sqft lots) not for SF-9 (9,000 sqft lots).
  • Additional vehicle traffic will hurt air quality.
  • The development will be built on a meadow that routinely floods.  The impervious surfaces will mean more runoff and flooding of neighbors.  Also, the meadow serves to recharge the aquifer below, so the available water for wells will be reduced.
  • Funds will be collected for a new fire station, but there is no clear requirement that the new fire station will be built or staffed.  Reno has admitted that they can’t afford to staff a new station.
  • Wildfires are a regular hazard in the area: they had one last year.  The contract with the developer is written that all the fire station money will be refunded to the developer if the development is not completed in 10 years.  Many residents have horses or livestock which will make evacuation that much more difficult.
  • Deer roam the area and there is no plausible “wildlife corridor” in the tentative map for wildlife to reach the Truckee.  This is a significant issue: deer currently roam the town.  The MGOD requires that a wildlife corridor be specified at the time of tentative map submission.
  • There is an initiative underway to revise the Mortensen-Garson Overlay District.  A lot has changed since it was written.  Also, the “handbook” that has most of the specifics has expired leaving an ambiguous mess.  Approval of this large development should wait till we see the results of the updated overlay proposal.
  • Homes in new developments in Verdi are not selling well.  There is no need for another large development.
  • TMWA does not have the plans or the budget to bring water to this new development.
  • The traffic report does not follow established guidelines from the Institute of Traffic Engineering (ITE) manual about traffic calculations regarding Average Daily Trips (ADT).  Planned developments will add 20,000 ADT to the narrow overpass built in 1964.  See the presentation (021920C).  The MGOD stipulated that the overpass would be widened before development could proceed.
  • The public notice postings were mounted to poles on private land so that they could not be read without trespassing.
  • The traffic study contains no consideration of the many other developments planned for the area.
  • The conditions placed on the development need to be met during final map review which is not open to the public.  [Editorial note: only 30% of the flood-mitigation features required for developments in Lemmon Valley were in compliance.  They were apparently never inspected by Reno to verify compliance.]

Commissioners asked quite probing questions about the development details.  The questions reflected a healthy skepticism of the reports provided by the developer and by the Reno staff.  It was also clear that the commissioners were seeking to address the questions and concerns raised during public comment.

Velto pressed Solaegui about specific results in his traffic report.  Solaegui did not explain clearly where his traffic data came from except that it was “historical patterns” (or something to that effect).  He claimed to follow the ITE manual.  Solaegui seemed to assert that a traffic circle has almost unlimited capacity and allows traffic to flow through virtually unimpeded.  This is demonstrably false (see Veterans Parkway Circle at rush hour).  Commissioners Marshall, Johnson, and Taylor all had detailed questions for Solaegui.

Hawkins asked Reno Fire Chief Cochran about fire service in the area.  Taylor asked about wildfire risk.  Cochran replied that he was comfortable with the “cost/benefit trade off”.  This does not sound reassuring to residents.  Marshall asked if Cochran had the resources to staff a new station.  Cochran was evasive.  Gower asked whether the fees collected from the developer could pay for a new station.  Cochran said a new station would run about $5.5M while an additional $1.5M would be needed for a fire engine and a brush (fire) truck.  Staffing would cost about $1.8M a year.  Collecting fees on 3,000 homes (maximum permissible under MGOD) would not cover the estimated cost to build the fire station ($4.7M).

There was some discussion regarding wildlife corridors.

The commissioners moved on to discuss the issues on the dais.

Gower expressed concern about having only one emergency service access entry.  He was also concerned about pedestrian safety in the tentative map.  He thinks the developer will pass on fee costs to the new owners making the homes less affordable.

Velto felt that the Planning Commission was exploring issues outside of its purview and should stick to applying the zoning requirements.  The decision shouldn’t wait till the new text amendment is done.  The checks and conditions will guarantee a good project.

Taylor agreed that the commission shouldn’t “look outside our role”.

Marshall made the point that under Reno’s master plan, sprawl-type growth is given the lowest priority since there is no infrastructure present and it does not contribute to a sustainable city.  He has no confidence that the infrastructure will be ready concurrently.  The wildlife corridors don’t meet the MGOD requirements.  The overpass should be rebuilt first with vias for pedestrians and cyclists.

Olivas asserted that infrastructure will follow development, so there is no reason to wait.

Hawkins believes that the infrastructure plans are inadequate.

Johnson said he “struggled with the density” and that this development depends on vague future requirements.  There are a lot of details missing at this time.  He does not like the fact that many of the issues are to be resolved in the future outside of the public eye.

The votes went as follows.  Villages 1 and 2 already had a special use permit approved.

The tentative map for villages 1 and 2 was approved (4-3).

  • Velto, Taylor, Olivas, and Johnson voting yes.
  • Gower, Hawkins, and Marshall voting no.

The tentative map and special use permit for villages 3 and 4 was denied (4-3).

  • Velto, Taylor, and Olivas voting yes.
  • Gower, Hawkins, Marshall, and Johnson voting no.

The tentative map and special use permit for villages 5 and 6 was approved (4-3).

  • Velto, Taylor, Olivas, and Johnson voting yes.
  • Gower, Hawkins, and Marshall voting no.

This was a long meeting starting at 6:00 PM and ending at 11:35 PM.

7 thoughts on “Meridian 120-South Approved (Mostly)

  1. Yet another case of the TMFPD, under the existing terms of the automatic aid agreement with Reno, having to service an area for which TMFPD gets no tax revenue or reimbursement.

    TMFPD station #40 Mogul is the ‘closest unit’, so has to respond, assuming Reno dispatchers ask for help.

    The developer’s ‘impact fee’ for fire should have been double the $1,608/unit to fully pay for the station, equipment, furnishings & vehicles. Even with that increase, there is no money for staffing, despite Reno getting (in 2020) a FEMA ‘SAFER’ grant for 10 firefighters (2/3rds of salaries and benefits paid by the grant for the first two years and 1/3rd for the third year).

    RFD would be better off staffing this new station while closing RFD#19 Somersett (now only partially staffed) as RFD#19 is poorly located with few calls.

    Cochran should have said ‘No’ but he is a shill for developers and the Mayor who want development, no matter what the cost.

    And where were our Fire Commissioners as Reno further abuses the automatic aid agreement? Why not publicly testify in opposition?

    Until that agreement is modified to require compensation when calls, one to another, are disproportionate, TMFPD taxpayers will continue to suffer.

    Have our Fire Commissioners forgotten their ‘fiduciary duty’ to their taxpayers?

    More reason to support new candidates for those positions in November.

    Tom Daly

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The MG properties were one acre or more in size
    When annexed, they were “clustered” to 6, 9 and 15 SF zoning
    Meridian 2 is to be 15,000 minimum SF lot size
    Reno Land is double dipping and reclustering the lot size to SF 9
    This is being done just to get a more dense development
    And the City, who has admitted to not understanding the MGOD, is allowing this
    Meridian 2 does not even meet the code criteria that allows for clustering
    Like it was said in a prior post- connect the dots

    Like

  3. I can’t believe how much building can go on, especially in the flood zones. Reno doesn’t care about anything but the $$, go annex Sparks! I appreciate your effort & all information. Thank you & sad!!

    Like

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