Arrowcreek School Grading Appeal 8/28/18

The Washoe County School District (WCSD) appealed the decision by the Board of Adjustment to deny the District a permit to start grading the property.  There were good reasons for the denial.

  1. The property still belongs to the Forest Service.  The transfer to the school district is not yet committed.
  2. The school plan is still tentative.  According to Adam Searcy, the director of capital projects, it is only 75% complete.
  3. The school plan has not been submitted to the Planning Commission for approval.
  4. The plan has serious deficiencies relating to traffic and flooding.
  5. Grading now will pose an erosion risk given the approach of winter weather.

Wolgast was the first to make public comment on this appeal and made the points listed above. (WCSD_Arrowcreek_grading_082818).  There were a number of neighborhood speakers that spoke knowledgeably to the issues of traffic, flooding, and earthquake hazard.  All expressed support for the school, but wanted a better plan that didn’t make existing problems worse.  Two residents expressed a need for an emergency driveway to Arrowcreek Parkway for possible evacuation.

The commissioners seemed suitably skeptical of this appeal.  It is unusual for several reasons.  Here are the questions and responses (paraphrased).

  • Commissioner Lucey “Has the WCSD acquired the property?”
    • Searcy “No.”
  • Commissioner Lucey “How about the flooding concerns?”
    • Searcy “Our design goes above and beyond the requirements for flooding remediation.”
  • Commissioner Lucey “What would be the impact of a delay to the grading?”
    • Searcy “We already have a 30-day delay due to the number of critical responses to the plan during the public comment period of the Forest Service.  Delaying approval could delay the opening past the 2019 school year.”
  • Commissioner Jung “Would the school system really grade a property they didn’t own?”
    • Searcy “No.  They would wait till the acquisition was complete.”
  • Commissioner Berkbigler “Will the retention pond normally be full?”
    • Searcy “No.  It will drain probably in a few hours.”
  • Commissioner Lucey “I think there are still some challenges that need to be addressed.”
  • Commissioner Berkbigler “I would like an updated design to review September 18.”
  • Pete Etchart (WCSD) “We can have an updated plan to review September 18.  We worked very hard to address the flood risk with this plan.”

The vote was unanimous to neither approve nor deny the appeal, but rather to table it to be continued at the September 18 meeting of the county commissioners.  This is likely a good outcome.  The WCSD has a brief opening to improve their plan.

Notes … observations … inferences

  • Today, the commissioners expressed skepticism of the developer’s reports and of the assurances made by county staff.  This is encouraging, since both the engineering firms and the county staff color their results and recommendations to favor the developer’s plan.
  • The Meckleys on Companion Court share the property line with the new school site.  They hired an engineer, Thiel, who has concluded that the retention ponds should be about 3X the size to be effective against the drainage in a big storm.  The WCSD is aware of this result.  There is room on the property for these larger detention ponds.
  • The un-reinforced retention pond presents a hazard of catastrophic erosion if it is overwhelmed.  It should be reinforced so that overflow will not cause it to fail suddenly.
  • Many neighbors wrote critical letters to the Forest Service to cause the extended public-input period.
  • Drainage along that part of Thomas Creek has been inadequate for a long time and will be made worse with the school.  The problem could likely be addressed with a larger storm sewer along Thomas Creek.
  • Traffic capacity could be increased if the county would commit to widening Arrowcreek Parkway to four lanes throughout.  Is there a reason not to do this?
  • The question is unanswered “Why would WCSD want to grade a property they didn’t even own?”  It appears that they wanted to start grading so that the new plan was ensured as the proverbial camel sticks his nose in the tent.

It looks like a good day for the neighbors and the parents.