Changing Times: 6/19/19

This is a guest post by Mike Lawson about the Reno Planning Commission meeting.

The Bob Dylan song titled “The times they are a changin’” released in 1964 should have been playing in the background at the June 19 Reno City Planning commission.

Thanks to the persistence of community advocates and leaders Tammy Holt-Still, Denise Ross, Danny Cleous, and Tim Fada (SP?) who strongly opposed approving yet another warehouse development in a flood plain in the North Valleys, the Reno PC voted to “continue” the applicant request until August 7. Sage Point applicant representative John Krmpotic made the request for a continuance based on the macro issues associated with the north valleys’ development, not the least of which is the ongoing law suit brought against the city by residents because of flooding in Lemmon Valley.

The more thoughtful testimony came from the aforementioned citizens who seemed more familiar with the evidence that the current flooding has been exacerbated by irresponsible development than did the city staff or the applicant representatives. Ms. Holt-Still made an excellent point about the required Clomar or Lomar having not been initiated for the warehouse project even though it would need to be completed before the applicant even requested approval of the Special Use Permit. City staff either was ignorant of this requirement or chose to ignore it. Ms. Ross made salient points regarding the air quality impacts associated with increasing diesel truck traffic and the fact that traffic studies used to justify the project do not account for the cumulative impacts associated with accelerated pavement deterioration on US 395. An insight expected (but lacking) from a city pavement engineer rather than a concerned citizen. Of course, the city of Reno does not concern itself with pavement deterioration on a State highway and the Nevada Department of Transportation has no voice in the SUP approval process so yet another deficiency in the process has been revealed. Yes, taxpayers would be on the hook for accelerated maintenance on US 395 and the associated costs.

During the commissioner discussion on the Sage point SUP request, Commissioner Gower asked for clarification from legal counsel on how the current law suit would impact decisions made by the planning commission moving forward.  The response from counsel was that it would depend on the verdict. Commissioner Marshall pointed out that the more relevant take away from the law suit, regardless of verdict, would be the testimony regarding what the city staff knew and chose to ignore or obfuscate when making recommendations for approval of developments in the north valleys (this is a paraphrasing but captures the essence of the commissioner’s remarks).  Commissioner Gower suggested that it was apparent from testimony during the public comment period that the citizens were much better informed and had better answers than staff or the applicant about the potential consequences of approving the SUP.

It was encouraging that the planning commissioners openly questioned the information (or lack thereof) they have been receiving from staff.  This trend of critical thinking and questioning of the “paid for” applicant reports has been evolving at both the Washoe County and Reno city planning commissions and is a direct result of the community activists that take the time to make their voices heard.  Unfortunately, both the Washoe County Commission and the Reno city council continue to overrule their respective planning commissions and approve abhorrent development that benefits their campaign contributors rather than the citizens they were elected to represent. The tide is shifting, but real change will only occur if we hold our elected officials accountable at the ballot box.  Yes, the times they are changin” but only if we all persist in demanding transparency and accountability from our elected officials.  Washoe County commissioner Jeanne Herman and Reno city councilwoman Jenny Brekhus represent the people and ought to be retained.  All of the other Washoe County commissioners and Reno city council members, including the mayor, consistently represent special interest groups that fund their campaigns and they need to be voted out.

SB327 Fails to pass!

This is a guest post by Mike Lawson, Washoe Planning Commissioner.

SB 327, a bill introduced by Senator Ben Kieckhefer that would have further obfuscated the planning process in Nevada, died a quiet but appropriate death in the Nevada legislature on Friday when it failed to pass out of the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs. This terrible piece of legislation was introduced as a back door attempt to allow for and justify the use of “super pads” in the tentative map phase of the planning approval process. Approval of Super pads would circumvent the existing requirement to provide specific residential design criteria and identify the infrastructure impacts associated with them so that the public can provide input.

The recent Stonegate project that incorporated “superpads”, which was quite likely approved illegally by the city of Reno, seems to have been the genesis for the proposed change to planning law, and it is no coincidence that Senator Kieckhefer introduced the legislation considering his company’s role in getting Stonegate approved. WRAP followers would be well advised to remember Senator Kieckhefer’s role in advocating and legislating for inappropriate development the next time he faces reelection.  Reno Council-Member Brekhus appealed the approval of superpads from within the city council (Brekhus Superpad Appeal), but her appeal was denied.

SB 327 would have quietly sailed through the legislative process had it not been for the efforts of Steve Wolgast, Kristin Hemlein, Pam Galloway, Don Drake, and other WRAP activists to inform the residents and solicit support in opposition. One hundred thirty-seven concerned citizens are to be commended for taking the time to post comments to the legislative website in opposition compared to zero posted in favor. Additionally, several concerned citizens, including Kristin Hemlein, traveled to Carson city to testify in opposition. These combined efforts convinced the committee to let the bill die a quiet death. The voice of citizens expressed at county commissioners meetings, city council meetings, planning commission meetings, and in forums like WRAP, Nextdoor, and Facebook is making a difference. Do not be discouraged by recent set backs, rather be encouraged by the successes we achieve. Thank you for caring and acting on behalf of our neighborhoods and our broader community.

Please consider attending the WRAP meeting and mixer at the Tamarack Junction from 4-6 p.m. on Sunday June 2 to learn more about the ongoing efforts to sustain the Nevada lifestyle we are trying to preserve.

Michael Lawson

 

Inaccessible in Reno

Reno decision on Prado Ranch: not accessible

Consideration of the Prado Ranch development in Lemmon Valley is scheduled for a meeting starting at 10AM on Wednesday, March 27 at the City Council Chambers.  Given the manifold problems associated with this development, it is telling that the City Council has scheduled it for a time when employed residents can’t be present.  This development will likely have a substantial negative impact on residents in terms of flooding, traffic, school overcrowding and safety in general.  The best practice of the City would be to have it considered in an evening meeting, or at least to have it scheduled for a “time certain” so that workers might plan to be absent from work in order to attend.

Meeting agenda 

Contact your council member

Washoe Tidbits 2/22/19

Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Meeting 2/19/19 (Notes by Tom Daly)

These are only selected highlights.  Emphasis added by Wolgast.

Sierra County, CA automatic aid agreement – Chief Moore has finalized the agreement as to the limited service area (not the whole county), TM units to respond to fires and the fee to be charged to Sierra County.  The agreement will now be reviewed by the District Attorney and will likely be presented to the Board for final approval in March.  This agreement is much more favorable to TMFPD than the current version.

Gerlach – A report from the District’s consultant Mike Brown will be presented in March on options to provide fire protection to this small community in northern Washoe County (not within the TMFPD).  Chief Moore indicated he is ready to take over operations (from the County) but the financials remain to be resolved as this is a County, not a TMFPD, responsibility.  The cost is about $1 million per year for staffing, supplies, equipment and station operational costs and some needed station modifications

Fleet additions –  Two new 3,000 gallon water tenders are here and being outfitted with radios and related equipment. They should be in service in early March at the latest, with one going to TM#33 Foothill.  The Board approved Chief Moore’s request for $80K for equipment (hose, ladders, tools, radios, etc. ) for the two new Type 1 structure engines due to be delivered in May.  The boards also approved $93K for two new command vehicles, typically for the two Operations Battalion Fire Chiefs.

Automatic aid – For CY2018 automatic aid from TMFPD to Sparks was at a rate of 20 times for each one time Sparks responded to TMFPD.  This imbalance is due to the poor distribution of fire resources by Sparks.  Every time a TM engine is servicing Sparks, it is not available to service taxpayers of the TMFPD.  TMFPD also responds more to Reno than Reno responds to TM.  The automatic vehicle locator (AVL) technology is in place and working for TMFPD (WCSO dispatch) and Sparks dispatch but not in Reno.  Reno refuses to provide the data base to ensure the ‘closest engine’ responds (to fires) per the existing automatic aid agreement.

Stonegate – This City development underway cannot be served by Reno Fire as they lack the staff to do so, even with the developer providing a temporary station (house) and future station (land and building but no equipment or vehicles).  As such, TMFPD will have to serve this community without getting any tax revenue or reimbursement as they TM be the ‘closest unit’ under the current automatic aid agreement.

Truckee Meadows Water Authority Meeting Highlights 2/20/19 (Bill Maggiora)

Bill Hauck discussed the current (as of 19 Feb 2019) snowpack.

  • He said that it was higher than normal by 160 to 175 percent of normal, depending on the area, for 19 February.  This was still way below what we had in 2017.
  • Bill also discussed water storage and Truckee River flow, which they wanted to keep below 5,000 Cubic Feet per Second.
  • Apparently, the available water storage facilities are pretty full and they may need to start releasing water to avoid flooding when the snow melts.
  • Bill said that we had a three-year supply of water stored in Lake Tahoe now.

 

—> Don’t forget to check out the In the Media page for recent articles and opinions regarding area development.

 

Sewer Expansion & Annexation

Guest post by Pamela Galloway

Reno councilwoman threatens involuntary annexations if sewer services expand

Near the conclusion of a Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency (TMRPA) meeting Thursday (2/14/19), Reno City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus delivered a warning to Washoe County about sewer expansions.  Brekhus said that in her mind, the Toll Road area is a natural demarcation between the city and unincorporated Washoe County. However, if the county plans any ambitious expansions of sewer services hooked up to city sewer, Reno might start annexing areas involuntarily.  She did not spell out which areas.  (Most of the areas of Virginia Foothills, Toll Road, Steamboat Valley, Pleasant Valley and beyond are on septic tanks, and most are on wells.)

The county announced it will seek some $50 million in bonds for sewer. Possibly in response to citizens’ concerns about what this money would pay for, county engineer Dwayne Smith plans to give a presentation to the Washoe County Planning Commission in March.  Residents in Steamboat, Pleasant, and Washoe valleys expressed concern to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) several weeks ago about what is planned.  Commissioners reassured public speakers that they would not be forced onto expensive sewer systems.

 

Reno advances bond for Stonegate

Agenda item D2.

The Reno City Council today advanced a new $54M bond to provide utilities to the Stonegate development at the foot of Peavine Mountain.  This will show up as $54M on Reno’s books.  The proponents expect that the cost of the bond will be more than offset by fees from developers when construction begins.  The Stonegate developer’s lobbyist said he wanted to see bonds issued in June 2019.  Deborah Louchner said the initial cost for appraisals and surveys will be borne by the developer.  The developer would reimburse expenses from a $150k account set up by the City.  This will be the cost to set up the Assessment District there and see if it’s a viable project for the City and the developer (Barnes).  This is not a recommendation for the project, but rather a recommendation to see if this is in the City’s best interest.  Ms Louchner said the developer is very motivated to move forward.  She expects issues in the process to come before the City Council maybe every other meeting.

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus was vociferous in her opposition pointing out that the residents will be paying for the bond if the development does not come to fruition.  She pointed out examples of other bonds that ended up burdening the taxpayers.  She also made the argument that Reno has no way to extend services so far from the city center.  There is presently a single Reno police officer assigned to cover the area north of Parr Blvd.

Councilwoman Brekhus raised the following questions and made the following points.

  • Does the project achieve the goals of the City of Reno?
  • Do we want to set a precedent of underwriting development and the associated risk?
  • The developers used to pay for roads and sidewalks.  Why should the City pay now?  Historically, the developer pays for infrastructure 99% of the time.
  • We need a city policy regarding city bond financing of development.
  • Has this funding process been used elsewhere successfully?
  • Can you find case studies where this worked and where it didn’t?
  • We should have transparency with all the related documents and communications received by the City on the City’s website.
  • This is a 10,000 unit development.  We only built 2,000 units in the region this past year.  The costs of this development will reach far into the future.
  • How affordable will these new homes be after the Special Assessment District costs and the Homeowners Association costs?  The master plan did not envision $700k homes here.
  • She is very concerned about the black-box environment that can be created around the issuance of these bonds.
  • Should the City become the financial partner of the developer?

Councilwoman Weber said she disagrees with Councilwoman Brekhus.  She thinks we should move through this process to develop the policy as we go.

Deborah Louchner, Reno Staff,  said there were case studies showing success with this approach from Clark County.

Voting “yes” to execute the agreement were Delgado, Schieve, Jardon, Duerr, and Weber.

Voting “no” was Brekhus.

Link to meeting video (5:40:00 mark)

Appeal of Stonegate approval

Warm Springs Area Plan Vindicated

The Washoe Planning Commission vindicated the Warm Springs Area Plan when they unanimously denied the Marshall Ranch master plan amendment and the associated rezoning.  The meeting was February 5.

Overview (WMPA18-0006 and WRZA18-0006 Marshall Ranch – Staff Presentation)

  • The property is 1088 acres zoned General Rural which allows one dwelling unit per 40 acres.  Under current zoning, this would allow a maximum of 27 homes to be built.  The number of homes will probably be reduced by acreage that is too steep (154 acres).
  • The location is West of the Pyramid Highway along the Winnemucca Ranch Road north of Spanish Springs.
  • The developer, Ken Krater, proposed to change the zoning to Rural Residential which would allow lot sizes of 5 acres and would permit a maximum of 187 homes to be built.
  • The City of Reno declined to annex the property with a plan to build 2500 homes.  It was removed from the City’s sphere of influence in 2017.
  • The developer planned to place 812 acres into a conservation easement.  It is not clear whether this will be retained given the denial of the project by the Planning Commission.  Given that 812 acres would not be available for development and 154 acres are too steep, there might be only 122 acres available to build.  This would allow a maximum of 24 homes on 5-acre lots.  By the time the conditions of acceptance are met, it will be less.
  • Apparently, the developer is running a federal tax scam.  Claiming that he could build 187 homes on the property greatly increases it’s value.  The tax deduction for conserving 812 acres would be huge if the property is assessed as supporting 187 homes.

Public Concerns and Comments

  • In the opening comments, two residents wanted to see the role and authority of their Citizen’s Advisory Board and all CAB’s expanded to address concerns of residents beyond just development.  The CAB’s used to have broader authority and there were also more CAB’s before recent consolidation.  The changes implemented have concentrated power in the Board of County Commissioners.
  • Regarding the Marshall Ranch project, several residents made the argument that they specifically moved to a rural area to have a rural lifestyle and are willing to drive long distances to services in the process.
  • Winnemucca Ranch Road is only partly paved and is not suited to handle 1800 more average daily car trips.
  • There are 900 new homes approved in Spanish Springs that are not yet built.  Marshall Ranch will compound a bad traffic problem.
  • There isn’t water up there.  That was part of the reason for the rural zoning.
  • If the zoning is amended to allow for higher densities here, there will be a dangerous precedent to violate area plans.
  • Truckee Meadows Fire has estimated that it will take 45 minutes to reach homes in the area.  The emergency services won’t support further development.
  • There is only a single access road with no second evacuation route in case of a wildfire.
  • One resident had the opinion that having the 812 acres preserved in perpetuity was worth the drawbacks of the added development.

Developer Presentation

  • The preservation of the original Marshall Ranch buildings on 40 acres is a benefit to the area.  It will continue to be used for grazing.
  • Setting aside 812 acres for conservation is a great benefit to the area.  The developer’s goal is to get a large tax deduction for this based on increasing the assessment of the property based on the value of the new homes.
  • Their plan is much better than the one they pitched to the City of Reno.
  • He needs 467 acre feet of water for his plan.  He has bought rights to 385 acre-feet and has plans to acquire the balance.  Up to 4 homes may be on wells.
  • The site is outside TMWRF, so he would build a dedicate wastewater treatment plant.
  • He would put in a “community water system” to support future development.

Staff Presentation

  • Staff made no recommendation for approval or denial of the project.
  • This area is a crucial winter range for antelope and is also a mule deer habitiat.  The wastewater plant would be in the habitat for the endangered Carson Wandering Skipper butterfly.
  • Emergency services access would be considered in detail before the tentative map review.

Commissioner Comments

  • The developer provided updated information the day of the Planning Commission meeting.  This is unacceptable.  There is no time to review this.
  • There is concern over EMS access and public safety.
  • It is inconsistent with the Area Plan.

Caution!

The developer is likely to appeal.  The Board of County Commissioners strongly favors developers and will not hesitate to overrule the Planning Commission.  The developer has 30 days to appeal.