Impolite

The sign outside the county auditorium requests polite behavior.  This is consistent with Nevada’s friendly culture which allows friendships across extreme political divides and frank discussions of hot-button topics.  I find it refreshing compared to the more hardened ideological positions I saw in the Bay Area.  But, there is a time to fight.  When your planning commissioner votes to increase the traffic on your road by a factor of 5 because the developer gave him a big discount on a new home, it’s not time to be polite.  When your commissioner votes against your appeal because the developer made a big contribution to her campaign fund, it’s not time to be polite.  The planning commissioners tell you to show up at meetings and to make carefully researched and reasoned arguments, but they know that it’s just for show: “the fix was in” before the meeting started.   Making polite arguments can distract us from exercising the power we possess as voters.

Latest dirt:

During Valentines Day dinner, the Reno City Council approved the StoneGate development despite unresolved issues of traffic, water, sewage treatment, fire protection, and schools.  It’s a slow-motion train wreck like we’ve seen elsewhere, but on a huge scale. It is in character that the City would review it when the public wouldn’t be present.  To her credit, Commissioner Brekhus voted “no”.  See news coverage LINK1 LINK2 .

The Golden Valley Remediation Plan proposed by Commissioner Herman was not even put on the agenda of the County Commission.  She was voted down by the other commissioners.  But, if 50 attendees at a meeting insist on an agenda item it must be added (per Teresa Aquila).  To add insult to injury, the commissioners voted to replace Herman with Lucey on the TMWA board.  Herman voted against the change but lost 4-1.  This change will certainly not help south county residents.

Info Overload:

If you want to know what the county is doing and are ready to fill your e-mail with announcements, you can go to http://www.washoecounty.us/cmail to sign up for upcoming agenda items throughout the county.

Express yourself!

Changing the way the Washoe Planning Commission and the County Commission operate will need to be a grassroots effort.  We need to inform and motivate people to effect the change.  Against us will be a lot of developer money producing slick ads and spreading disinformation to discredit us and our positions.  Our strength comes from the many residents who are enraged, disgusted, or disheartened by the way developments are spoiling our neighborhoods and the Truckee Meadows in general.  Part of our effort is to keep the current problems in the public eye.

  • Write a letter to the Reno Gazette Journal: 160 words maximum, your name, your city, your address (not published), and your phone number (not published).  Use the form on the RGJ website or sent your letter to “letters@rgj.com”  Shorter letters are welcome: RGJ will come up with a title.
  • Write a letter to This Is Reno: send it to Bob Conrad; bob@thisisreno.com .
  • Post your opinions on Facebook and include a reference to washoerap.com .

Topics you might want to address:

  • Development in Washoe County is out of control!  There are over 100 approved development projects that have not been built.  More are in the works.
  • Why don’t the planning commissioners and county commissioners have the discipline to follow the area plans and established zoning?
  • Will we have broader, regional flooding problems given the area of the Great Basin that is being paved?
  • How do our development plans address the coming drought and the many drought years to come?  I have heard that the state regulators laugh at TMWA for their reckless commitments.
  • Why is it OK for county commissioners to accept campaign contributions from developers and then to judge their projects?  A small amount of the contributions are idenified; the others are hidden using lawyers and lobbyists as middle-men.
  • Reno was identified as one of the top 25 destinations by Outdoor Magazine.  But, we are developing the Steamboat Hills that are desirable for horseback riding and mountain biking.  If we want tourism, we need to preserve the rugged beauty of the Great Basin.
  • Pell mell development is supported by the city and county partly because the tax revenues are like a ponzi scheme.  This is worsened by the unfair property tax formula that depreciates older homes of comparable value to new homes.
  • We have a shortage of affordable housing, but the majority of the new homes are in the $500,000 to $1,500,000 price range.  The commissioners say “We need the housing and it’s not our problem if it’s not affordable.”
  • Why isn’t there a requirement that some of the new homes are built with solar panels to power air conditioning?  This is incorporated in many new developments in California.  It’s a benefit to the buyer because the solar system cost becomes part of the mortgage and the utility savings are immediate.
  • What about protecting our wildlife?  The planning commission ignores the issue of the destruction of habitat for eagles, deer and many other native species; even ones with federal protection.
  • Fire services for both Reno and Truckee meadows are presently stretched scandalously thin.  How will we support additional residents?

Your letter or post will remind readers of the ongoing problems and motivate them to effect change.  As the author, you may find it cathartic to make your point and “get it out of your system”.

Good Development

We tend to see “development” and “bad development” as synonymous.  This is largely a legitimate conclusion in Washoe County.  Bad development can bring bad traffic, flooding, school overcrowding, environmental degradation, water insecurity, fire hazard, and loss of outdoor recreation.  Bad development impacts the new homebuyers as well.  They may be part of the problem, but they are victims too.   The Washoe County Planning Commission (backed by the County Commission) has allowed zoning variations and permitted violations of plans and guidelines to allow the bad developments to proceed.  They have compounded this by ignoring CAB recommendations and public comment. Talking to our commissioners, I get the impression they feel obliged to guarantee the developers’ profits.  They will accept higher housing density and noncompliances to this end.  The commissioners seem to accept that development is detrimental to homeowners and that they should accept the loss.

But, it does not have to be that way.  Road improvements, flood mitigation, school development and low-impact design can result in new developments that benefit existing residents.  How about some playgrounds and bike paths and community centers?  Good development is possible, and we must insist on it.  Once the majority of the Great Basin is paved and suffering gridlock, it’s too late to enforce our standards.

We are derided as NIMBY’s (Not In My Backyard), an acronym promoted by the real estate associations.  I respond that this is not true: we want our standards enforced.

 

Highlights

As the blog author on this site, I can see which pages are getting the most views.  I’m gratified to see it, but sometimes, I feel like my viewers are missing some of the best stuff.  I’ll take this chance to highlight a few things that I think are most informative.

There is a consolidated list of all the new developments that have been approved but not finished in Washoe County.  It includes a lot of developments in Reno.  It is sobering to think that there are over 100 developments to house 60,000 residents that are already “in the works”.  I have requested updated information because this list and map were produced in April 2017.  Look for the map on page 4.  [LINK]

You are not alone thinking that there is a lot of bad development and that housing prices are too high.  There are also others that accuse the commissioners of favoring developers and other malfeasance.  See the “In the Media” page for recent articles, opinion pieces, and letters on these topics.

How did we get here, and what were they thinking?!  After the Ascente project was approved, I scheduled meetings with each of the commissioners to plead the case that this development was problematic and bad for the neighborhood.  I didn’t change any minds, but I got an earful of the commissioners views and justifications for why things are this way.  I found it revealing. [LINK]

Northern Exposure

Bad development occurs all over the Truckee Meadows, in the North Valleys as well as in the South Valleys. There are over 100 new projects in the Truckee Meadows which have been approved by the county and city planning commissions. For many of these, the construction has not started yet.  All of these are voted on by the county commission and the planning commissioners they appointed.  No part of the county can be protected from bad development unless we are all protected.

The new travesty is called Stonegate. It’s a development of over 4,000 homes on 395 between Reno and Cold Springs. Residents are concerned about all the familiar problems related to area development; traffic, fire protection, police services, water availability, flood control, schools, and sewage processing. These issues are inadequately addressed in the developers plans and there does not seem to be the will in the city council to deny it. Traffic is the biggest concern: this part of 395 is already choked and plans to widen 395 are a year or more after the development construction. TMWA has reported that providing water will not be a problem, but they have a history of reckless commitments. The City of Reno expressed confidence that adequate fire and police services will be provided, but they have a history of diluting public services in an effort to balance their budget. Both the city and the county seem to be playing a ponzi scheme wherein tax revenue from new development is used to pay old bills. This is unsustainable and gives the commissions an incentive to support any development just to get the revenue. The logical conclusion is to have development like Vegas, or Phoenix until the rugged beauty of the Great Basin is spoiled and the civic nature of Reno is a memory.

Check out our page: [XXXXX]

As a county-wide entity, WRAP is pleased to ally with the Cold Spring residents in their fight against bad development along with the malfeasance and corruption that enables it.  We count on them to help to change the county.

Brave New 2018

This is the year that Barnes and Tanguay hope to start the Ascente build.  But, before the blasting and the grading, the trucks and the bulldozers, they will need to meet the 134 “conditions of acceptance” required by the county and get approval of their “final map”.  Some of the conditions require engineering reports regarding the suitability of the site for construction.  My understanding is that the county staff does not review these reports for accuracy or veracity, but simply check-off that they have been submitted.  Given the ludicrous traffic study that was accepted by the staff for Ascente, we can have no confidence that any due diligence is exercised or any the report is not falsified to favor the developer.  I’m told, the staff lacks the expertise, the resources, and the will to review submitted reports for technical accuracy.

This is the year that commissioners Lucey, Jung, and Herman come up for re-election to 4-year terms.  Robert Lucey is reported to be the ring leader of the pro-developer cabal in the commission.  He is an uninhibited beneficiary of developer largess having acquired five new homes directly from developers.  He also benefitted from impressive campaign donations from developers.  As we see much of our view suffer the fate of Colina Rosa (next to Galena), we must ask ourselves if we are angry enough to fight back.  We shouldn’t wait till we feel the blasting and hear the back-up beepers to decide that this is just too much.  There is a WRAP strategy group seeking a good candidate to run for Lucey’s seat.  This candidate will need exceptional grass-roots support to beat Lucey and his developer money.  There will be many ways to support this candidate; large and small.  I think now is the time for each of us to consider what it is worth to see Lucey ousted.  Our neighborhood was sold out for money: it is that simple.

New & Views

There are new additions to the “In the Media” page from recent articles.  Check out Tom Daley’s piece about how the unincorporated Washoe taxpayers are subsidizing Reno.

Also, see my notes about my meetings with all the county commissioners individually.  I was trying to persuade them to oppose Ascente when I met with them in the summer.  I persuaded no one, but I did get an earfull from all of them about why they support this frantic development.  I put this in my recent op-ed piece to the RGJ, but it was all edited out.  The editor said that they couldn’t independently confirm what the commissioners had said.  OK, I’ll publish it here.