Reno Approves all of Meridian 120 South

On June 10, 2020, the Reno City Council approved all 6 villages that compose the Meridian 120 South development.  This property is located south of I-80 across from Boomtown and Cabellas.  The development plan currently calls for 621 homes.  The vote was 5-2 with council members Brekhus and Duerr opposed.  Council members Schieve, Delgado, Reese, Jardon, and Weber voted in favor which is no surprise given the lavish support they receive from development interests (Reno Swamp).  The meeting was not open to the public due to concerns of infection given the pandemic.  Reese made the point that there were over 40 meeting participants joining remotely.  The purpose is to review the tentative maps since the properties are already zoned for residential development.

Previously, villages 1&2 were remanded back to the Planning Commission by the city council.  Villages 5&6 were approved .  Villages 3&4 were denied by the Planning Commission.  The city council had remanded the plan for villages 1&2 back to the Planning Commission without approving or denying.  The city had then been sued by the developer.  The developer “paused” their suit with no settlement.  Reno agreed to bring the entire project before the city council and the developer dropped the suit.

Staff Report

Arlo Stockham, Reno Planning staff, introduced the staff report regarding the development.  The development was brought for approval in three separate applications for villages 1&2, villages 3&4, and villages 5&6.  The developer made a concession to rezone 8 acres that had been zoned industrial-commercial and preserve it as open space.

Heather Manzo presented the staff report (Staff-Report_061020).  She gave a little of the history of the approval process.  Following approval there should be updated traffic studies.  [That would seem to be moot.]

The staff suggested several conditions for approval which the developer would accept.

  • Rock lined detention basins for ground water recharge.
  • Set aside 17 acres for a wildlife corridor.
  • Require review of the final maps with the stakeholders (community)
  • Provide 2.9 acres for a fire station
  • Developer to request re-zoning of the industrial area to open space

Appeals

Ed Kaufer (representing The Society for the Preservation of Verdi) made the following points in his appeal (Kaufer_Appeal).  He identified specific findings that could not be met for this development.

  • When the city annexed the properties the city became responsible for infrastructure and emergency services.  The city has already admitted that they are unable to meet these responsibilities (6/6/08).
  • Developing Verdi is a Tier-4 priority (lowest) in the Re-Imagine Reno master plan.
  • The findings needed to approve the development can not be met.
  • The cost of building and maintaining the fire station will not be met by fees paid by the developer.
  • Key issues of drainage and connectivity are not addressed till later phases of the construction.
  • Secondary fire access needs to be present at the time of the first final map.
  • Staff suggests that each of the three phases be considered as a standalone project.  This makes no sense: phases 1 & 2 depend on later phases for drainage, ingress/egress, fire protection, and connectivity.
  • Multiple water related findings cannot be met.
  • Village 2 has excessive density which does not meet the required findings.

Giddeon Caplovitz (representing The Society for the Preservation of Verdi) presented an appeal (McNeil-Caplovitz_Appeal) regarding emergency services.

  • Fire, Police, and EMS services will be inadequate so as to violate the necessary findings.
  • Fire response time is 11-15 minutes.  The route for a fire engine is quite hazardous.
  • The area is in the Wildland-Urban interface area.  This area has a history of wild fires.
  • Developer fees will only cover a fraction (4%) of the fire protection costs.

Dee Anne Radcliffe (representing The Society for the Preservation of Verdi) presented an appeal (Crabb_Appeal) challenging the developer’s traffic study.

  • The trip-reduction requirements from MGOD were not included in the design.
  • The developer’s traffic study conducted by Paul Soleagui was reviewed by LSC Transportation Consultants at the request of the appellants.
  • The review of the report indicated that the average daily trip calculations done by Soleagui were too low (by 16%).  Soleagui did not follow ITE methodology.
  • Heavy snow that November 2019 resulted in lower-than-average traffic.
  • Coming development at Boomtown is not included.

Radcliffe went on to present a second appeal regarding cluster development in Villages 1&2 (Kaufer-Radcliffe_Appeal).

  • The developer did not follow the SF-15 zoning mistakenly represented as SF-9 by Manzo.
  • The Planning Commission denied the plan as not compliant with the zoning.  The same plan was then approved by the Reno City Council identified as “cluster development”.
  • This development does not meet the Reno criteria for a cluster development.
  • Clustering allows for a 15% reduction in lot size: Villages 1&2 are reducing lots by 23%.
  • The existing neighborhood is 1 acre lots or larger.

Andy Durling of Wood Rogers (representing the developer) gave a presentation (Durling_Appeal) for his appeal seeking approval of villages 3&4 that had been denied by the Planning Commission.  He gave an overview of how the development addresses issues of water, fire protection, traffic, and drainage.

Council member questions

Jardon: She wants to see the pedestrian path completed in some form with the initial construction.  She also wants to see the secondary road be built along with the first construction.  It could be a temporary road, but it needs to go in early.

Brekhus: “What is the city required to do with the wildlife corridor included in the plan?  The city should not have to build or maintain it.”  She asked if it were a project of regional significance.  The answer is “no” since it is below the 625 dwelling-unit threshold.  Since it is covered by the MGOD plan, it would not require further review by TMRPA.

Duerr: “Please explain the requirements for cluster development.”  Concerned by lack of funding for a fire station.  “When will the fire station be built during development?”

Public Comment

The city council received 79 letters in opposition to the project plus 2 letters of concern.  Speakers raised the following concerns.

  • Residents are not within incorporated Reno, and so don’t vote for the city council.
  • The bike path does not meet the Reno standards.
  • The plan does not provide connectivity as required in the master plan.
  • Earlier, there was to be private funding to widen the overpass.  There is no such plan now, so how will this be funded?
  • The high density is still a problem with the design.
  • The developer’s open space designation needs to be made permanent.
  • We need a ground water mitigation plan in place.
  • Wildlife habitat on the property should be protected.
  • Drainage requirements should be specifically spelled out.
  • Taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize emergency services for new development.
  • Many important issues are deferred to “final map” which does not inspire confidence that they are being adequately addressed.
  • The city council has 30 days to decide.  The time should be used to further address concerns that have been raised.
  • There is a trust issue: previous conditions on development have not been upheld.
  • Both of the proposed secondary access routes are problematic.
  • None of the issues that were negotiated 20 years ago are being honored.
  • The bicycle/pedestrian underpass is not safe or convenient.

Council discussion

Brekhus: the underpass available to cyclists and pedestrians requires cleaning and maintenance which it would not get as a cattle crossing.  Brekhus is concerned that the developer may go back to court to get the conditions changed in their favor.  There should be a condition that if the developer seeks relief in the courts regarding this development that this approval is vacated.

Duerr: there should be a requirement to use surface water for the new development except for emergencies and a ground water mitigation plan should be included.  Some habitat mitigation should be in place before construction displaces the wildlife.  The drainage features need to be built in advance so as not to affect downstream neighbors during construction.  Villages 3&4 appear to be too close to I-80 to allow for convenient traffic and occasional storm water run off.  The roads in the development are narrow and not suitable to support traffic from 600 homes.  The fire protection plan sounds inadequate and depending on funding from the city.

Voting on Villages 1&2

  • Jardon moved to uphold the Planning Commission’s approval of Villages 1&2 with the conditions just added.
  • Brekhus does not think there is sufficient discussion of the findings or why the council is making this reversal of the earlier action.  Reno can’t provide fire service at this time.
  • Duerr needs to protect public safety.  She is concerned that water availability is not sufficient.  The secondary access road is not adequate.  She thinks the zoning is suspect.  Fire protection is her greatest concern.
  • All voted in favor except for Brekhus and Duerr (5-2).

Voting on Villages 5&6

  • Jardon moved to uphold the Planning Commission’s approval of Villages 5&6 with the conditions just added.
  • Brekhus can’t make the findings especially regarding the overpass and fire safety.
  • Duerr is concerned about the visual impact on other neighborhoods in addition to the concerns she raised regarding the previous motion.
  • All voted in favor except for Brekhus and Duerr (5-2).

Voting on Villages 3&4

  • Jardon moved to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial of Villages 3&4 with the conditions just added.
  • Brekhus thinks this area will have intensive demands on services that the city can’t support.  This area is zoned Arterial Commercial but is being used for residential.
  • Duerr it is incompatible with the surrounding land use, the traffic impacts, and the scale and intensity is excessive.
  • All voted in favor except for Brekhus and Duerr (5-2).

While some new conditions were placed on the development which will provide some benefit, this is a disappointment to the residents who feel that their community is being overwhelmed.

AGENDA          VIDEO

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