The Canyons Development Approved

The Reno City Council voted to approve The Canyons development on Wednesday by a vote of 5-2. Voting “no” were councilmembers Brekhus and Duerr. The developer was seeking approval of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) application, a zoning amendment, and the tentative map.

Public Comment Voicemails (In addition, the city received 49 letters in opposition and 10 expressing concern)

  • Concern about the impact on the wild horses, native plants, and other wild life.
  • There has already been a lot of development there, and the traffic is already a problem. This new development will be terrible for neighbors in the Palisades neighborhood.
  • Opposition includes the next development: Canyon’s Edge.
  • Concern about protecting the eagles in the area.
  • The area is used by Native Americans for cultural events. There should be access provided.
  • A retired water engineer expressed concern that severe flooding can occur in the Damonte Canyon.
  • This development will disrupt a unique eco-system in the canyon.
  • Development in the area has already restricted storm water drainage: The Canyons development plan will put roads across the main drainage way as well as also smaller drainage ways.
  • There is increasing demand for open space available for recreation including in this area.
  • Taxpayers end up “on the hook” for flood damage from poor development plans.
  • This development will displace horses so that more of them will end up in the neighborhoods and roads.
  • The developer should provide a water tank at the northeast corner so that the horses no longer need to traverse the neighborhoods in search of water.

Jeff Borchardt (Reno planner) and Garett Gordon gave presentations on behalf of the developer. The 81-acre parcel was annexed by Reno in November 2016. The developer claims to have increased the open space, provided more public trails, and reduced the amount of grading. Gordon described revisions to the previous plan. He asserted that the developer cannot legally provide water for the wild horses. This is disputed by wild-horse activists. Jack Dolan joined the meeting saying that this property had been in his family 40 years and asking for approval.

Councilmember Duerr said that she had worked closely with the developer to gain a detailed understanding of the project and the exact location of its features. She made a presentation showing conditions that could be applied to the project to address the concerns of the public. She and Councilmember Reese requested the following conditions.

  • Leave at least 15 feet of setback from the Eagle Canyon drainage way to allow for an unimproved hiking trail on both the north and south banks. Property fences along this perimeter should be low and unobtrusive.
  • Remove one cul-de-sac and its 5 lots so as not to impinge on access to the canyon.
  • The developer should submit a study by NDOW indicating the impact on wildlife and eagles before doing any grading or blasting.
  • The HOA would be responsible to remove rocks from the roadway that fall naturally from the nearby slopes.
  • The developer should provide water for the horses to keep them from the roads and neighborhoods. There will only be a narrow corridor for horses to get by this development. It is better if they stay in the hills.

Council Discussion

  • Mayor Schieve thinks it’s vital to develop a wildlife plan for the area. She is extremely concerned with the many new projects coming in that will impact area wildlife. She will not vote to approve new projects until there is a wildlife plan in place. This is a message for city staff and for projects after The Canyons. She is very concerned about the plight of the wild horses.
  • Duerr would like to see new regulations covering “special places” such as hillsides, canyons, and floodplains since development is expanding into these areas.
  • Brekhus asked if the Master Plan shows the extension of the road through the Palisades up into another development. Stockham replied that the Master Plan would not include this level of detail, but that it is included in the land-use plan.
  • Duerr showed a short video of storm water runoff in the canyon and reiterated her request for the 15′ setback from the drainage way rim.
  • Councilmember Jardon was not confident that TMWA would or could provide water for a tank for the horses.
  • Brekhus asked staff about the hydrology report. Did the report confirm that the downstream neighborhoods of Palisades and Damonte Ranch could handle the storm water runoff? Borchardt said that code required that the downstream flows be considered, although he didn’t know the detail.
  • Brekhus asked about width of the road right-of-way. Borchardt looked it up; 42′. She wants to know the detail since the Reno Public Works department will be responsible for maintaining this road. Borchardt answered that the HOA will be responsible to maintain the embankments (retaining walls). He answered that the rip-wrap (bound rock structures) maintained by the HOA would be vital for the integrity of the road (maintained by the city).
  • Brekhus asked about the fire response. Did the staff have a time range of response times that included the last house on the new road? Borchardt replied that the response time to the first house would be 5 minutes. For houses that are beyond the 6-minute standard, they would require fire-protection sprinklers.
  • Brekhus asked about the minimum lot size. The smallest lots for the duet homes (half a duplex) would be 1500 square feet. So, the area previously zoned for 15,000 square-foot minimum lot size will have a number of homes with 1/10 that lot size. This is why the developer is requesting a PUD which will supersede the existing zoning.
  • Councilmember Weber asked if the developer will accept the conditions proposed by Duerr and Councilmember Reese. Gordon replied that they would agree to the 15′ setback on both sides of the drainage way with a trail on the north side. They did not agree to delete the one cul-de-sac, or to provide water for the wild horses.
  • Weber pressed the point and asked if the five lots could be moved somewhere else in the PUD. Gordon replied that these lots could not be moved somewhere else without an increase in the grading needed.
  • Reese asked Gordon to confirm that the developer did not agree to the trail on the south side of the drainage way. Gordon confirmed.
  • Reese asked Gordon to confirm that the developer will consult various authorities about the impact of the development on wildlife especially the eagles. Gordon confirmed that the developer would do so.
  • Schieve said there were misleading maps “in circulation”. One showed homes built in the drainage way. She also asked if the developer would provide educational signs discouraging the public from feeding the horses. Gordon says they will install 2 signs at a minimum.
  • Weber does not support Schieve’s demand for a comprehensive wildlife plan. She says there are laws in effect, and that we “can’t always do what we want”. She also promoted private property rights with the implication that owners should have freedom to do what they want.
  • Brekhus said that the storm water runoff will flow into the Damonte Ranch neighborhood which pays an assessment to maintain the drainage way downstream. Will the new homes become part of that district and also pay an assessment? Arlo Stockham (staff) said that the developer is responsible to put in detention basins to limit runoff caused by development. Such basins do not appear on the developer’s maps.
  • Duerr asked if the developer could remove 3 of the 5 problem lots and align the fence to the drainage way. She also asked what were the developer’s plans for the south rim of the drainage way since both rims must be protected to protect the drainage way. Gordon replied that the south rim will have the 15′ setback but not the additional width for a foot path. Gordon said the developer will not eliminate the 3 lots.

Duerr moved to make the conditions she and Reese proposed a requirement in the PUD. Reese seconded. Brekhus thinks that the PUD proposal is not in conformity with the Master Plan in terms of the road connections and the small lots. She also thinks the development will be a financial burden in terms of road maintenance and storm water runoff. Weber said she will not support putting additional conditions on the developer. Only Reese and Duerr supported the motion.

Reese moved to approve the zoning map amendment and the PUD with a change to the fencing around the problem cul-de-sac (now a hammer-head shape). Reese clarified that the city will be responsible to remove rocks and debris and snow from the new road. Brekhus does not think the overall plan meets the code requirements for expanding affordable housing. The motion passed 5-2 (Reese, Delgado, Weber, Jardon, and Schieve for; Duerr and Brekhus opposed).

Reese then moved to approve the tentative map. Brekhus thinks the development will be a liability for the city and wants to see a more detailed analysis of the fire response before approving the tentative map. She also doesn’t think that there is an adequate plan to keep the wild horses off the roads. Duerr thinks the geology is not suitable for building with very fine soil and friable (easily crushed) rock. The developer plans to bring in a lot of soil that can be compacted for homesites. She is also concerned about earthquake faults that run through the property. She is also concerned that there is not adequate water pressure at the Palisades which would not be adequate for fire fighting efforts. The motion passed with the councilmembers voting the same way.


Meeting Video (near the beginning)

One thought on “The Canyons Development Approved

  1. Pingback: Canyon’s Edge Town Hall 4/19/21 | Washoe Residents for Appropriate Planning

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