Last week, Reno City Councilmember Jenny Brekhus sent out an e-mail newsletter to her constituents and to others in the broader community.
She made the following points about Reno.
- Growth and development in the area is “off kilter”. It is increasingly confrontational with a “winner takes all” character. Previous growth periods did not include such heightened conflict.
- The Reno Planning Commission is responsible for development and planning decisions. These decisions can be appealed to the city council. Many projects are now getting appealed to the city council indicating that someone is not happy with the planning commission’s decisions.
- Too many projects are even going to the courts when the city council decision is found unacceptable. Most disturbingly, citizens who were involved in the decisions are not included in the court procedures. The delay and uncertainty pose their own problems.
- This is due to several reasons.
- Reno has had 3 city managers in 8 years and has not been consistently well managed including staff turn-over.
- There has been poor infrastructure planning. It has been haphazard and developer-driven.
- The development interests have outsized influence because they are the primary financing sector of local elected office holder’s campaigns. Money is an influencer in political decision making (including elected judges). It is difficult to win local office without developer campaign contributions.
Regarding Verdi …
- Verdi has its own unique community identity.
- This community was put on its current trajectory of becoming west Reno, in 2002 with the adoption of the Truckee Meadows Regional Plan.
- The regional planning agency (TMRPA) was formed in 1989 by the Washoe County Commission with the apparent idea that Washoe County would follow the Clark County model with populous pockets of unincorporated lands. It was a counter response to the Reno City Council that was embarking upon legitimate and reasonable growth management steps.
- “The most notable update was the 2002 plan. At that time, Reno that was led by a growth friendly Council had begun to flex muscle in deploying some of the favorable laws that allow Reno be in the driver seat for regional growth allocation. With tables turned, Washoe County objected to Reno’s expansion ideations. When it was all said and done, the Washoe County Commission sued the Regional Planning Agency over the plan content.”
- Under Judge Hardesty, area landowners were able to get what they wanted through a series of settlement conferences. The landowners were able to get about 7,000 acres incorporated into the city with zoning for over 3,000 residential units plus industrial and commercial projects.
- In a remarkable outcome, Hardesty forged a settlement that rezoned these mountainous, semi-rural lands for development absent technical analysis of the suitability of such development. The plan should have been a template for a reimagined public process with the identification of land uses and programming for infrastructure, but this was cast aside in a closed-door scheme.
- Brekhus opposed the West Meadows Estates development and later plans due to inadequate road capacity and Reno’s inability to provide fire and police services. Unfortunately, all were approved by the city council.
- Brekhus wants to see a plan to “knit together the hodge-podge that Verdi has become”. She’s repeatedly asked for a joint city/county area plan, but there is no interest in doing this. Verdi only gets attention when another landowner wants to take advantage of one of Hardesty’s entitlements.
Brekhus closes with “I envision a plan that would build upon the compact community character of old town Verdi and promotes investment in that core area and the immediate surrounds. Bike, pedestrian and local roadway connections to old town should be improved and warehousing truck traffic routes clearly delineated. Other community needs that have not been adequately addressed like open space connections and sewer line extensions should also be evaluated.” She thinks that a comprehensive plan is still possible.