There’s been no visible work on the Ascente property for the last two years, but there’s renewed activity. Rising home prices are likely making the development profitable for Symbio (Barnes and Tanguay). There is no news on their selling either lots or villages: it’s not clear who will build the new homes and who will sell them.
A final map was submitted to the Washoe County Planning Department recently. It was for only 5 home lots at the end of Brushwood Lane. This would be part of the “Sierra Village” at the end of Fawn Lane. The document package was rejected since it used Brushwood as its primary access. The tentative map approved by the county had a gated connection to Brushwood for emergency evacuation only. One might conclude that Barnes/Lumos were trying to “pull a fast one”. Given that they will not be able to use Brushwood for primary access, they may want to pick a different location. Watch for news.
As part of the Ascente final map process, J-U-B Engineers (surveying for Ascente) will do an aerial map of the property. For this purpose, they are locating marks that will be visible from the air and can be used to align the aerial images. One of their workers was caught painting a large “X” on a private driveway without asking the permission of the homeowner. This driveway had recently been resurfaced at a price of roughly $20k. The J-U-B crew was confronted by the homeowner. The supervisor claimed that he thought it was a public road and apologized for the intrusion. He further offered to paint over the mark after the aerial survey was complete. The homeowner told him he was not welcome to return. Vandalizing private property reflects the degenerate ethics of the entire Ascente operation.
The Reno Planning Commission reviewed a request from the Daybreak developer to approve a tentative map for the development on 4/21/21. It is on the corner of the property near the intersection of South Meadows Parkway and Echo Valley Parkway. It is for 173 homes on 34 acres: Villages 18-B and 19-A. These are small lots: 3400 sqft to 4500 sqft. The market is claimed to be the “missing middle”. While part of Daybreak, this development will be called “Talus Valley”. The developer gave a presentation and then the staff gave one also. Brooklyn Oswald concluded with a recommendation to approve this application. The commissioners had no questions: there was no discussion. The application was approved unanimously.
The developer for the Mount Rose Commercial Center presented their plan to the city council. The developer is seeking approval to proceed with grading and moving the drainage-way which may be on a 24-hour basis. The lots subject to 24-hour work are on the south side of the site toward the geothermal power plant. The planning staff recommended approval. There was no public comment.
Building height up to 55 feet by zoning. This will probably be representative of any warehouse buildings.
Traffic studies have not been done. A traffic study will be required when each parcel is defined.
There was no discussion. The permit was approved unanimously.
Councilmember Duerr hosted a town hall meeting on Zoom regarding the planned Canyons’ Edge development. It’s a small development of 8 homes at the foot of the steep rise above Damonte Ranch and The Palisades. It is the next step in peripheral sprawl from the recently approved Canyons development. The 80 acres will be divided into 8 10-acre lots. Only 14 acres will be developed. The other 66 acres are too steep (30% slope or more). In effect, the homes will be on small lots with nearly 10 acres of vertical back yard.
John Krmpotic of KLS Planning gave the presentation. He made two points to show the efforts made by the developer to address community concerns.
The developer would accommodate the wild horses with a path through the development and a water trough further up the hillside. This would be considered temporary for two years until Reno came up with a comprehensive plan to manage and support the wild horses.
The developer would zone the 66 acres as Open Space and would allow access by the public. The Open Space area would be under the control and management of Reno.
Krmpotic represented these as “concessions” to the neighbors. One resident pointed out that the accommodation of the wild horses was not a concession but rather a mitigation (addressing a problem caused by the development itself). Also, the 66 acres are too steep to build on. It’s not conceding much to make it Open Space.
The meeting lasted an hour and a half. Open issues remain.
What will the cumulative effects be when the Sunny Hills development is built on the adjoining properties to the North?
What will happen after two years? Will Reno be ready with their plan to support the wild horses when the developer starts building and blocks the horses’ access?
How will horses access the planned water trough which is on a steep hillside?
What does it mean for a homeowner to own Open Space? Legally, the homeowner could fence off all or part of their property whatever the zoning. The developer wants to sell the properties as 10-acre lots, but guarantees public access to 82% of it. This appears untenable.
The developer has submitted a Master Plan Amendment to change the zoning from UT-40 (one home per 40 acres) to one home per 10 acres. While it’s only a few homes, it follows the pattern of every developer seeking a zoning change to build at higher densities. They are also requesting a designation change from Tier-3 to Tier-2 by the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Authority for the 14 acres. Building is largely prohibited on Tier-3 areas. The developer does not yet have a date for the Reno Planning Commission to review the project. Dolan said that he had wanted to move forward earlier when he felt “he had strong staff support”. He didn’t expand on how that had changed.
Duerr made the point that the conditions about accommodating the wild horses should have been incorporated into the PUD for the Canyons development which was just recently approved. Dolan argued that this was not possible since that development had a different owner: his brother, Jack Dolan (Six Development). He went on to admit that Jack was also an investor in his company; Virginia 40’s. It sounds like good old Reno.
6000 Plumas Redevelopment, a.k.a. the Lakeridge Tennis Club Development
My previous blog found here describes the history of the now-vacant lot on S. McCarran near Lakeside that was previously occupied by the former Lakeridge Tennis Club. In brief, developer Reno Land purchased the Club and publicly assured concerned members and neighbors that they would save some of its recreational facilities including a pool and 6 tennis courts and only build about 150 apartments on part of the site. Reno Land then requested Reno’s City Council for a change in zoning to Commercial zoning so that it would be possible under the City’s codes to retain the recreational facilities side-by-side with apartments, stating that the change in zoning would allow them to return the Club “to its former glory”. However, soon after Commercial zoning was granted, the developer demolished the Club, returned to the city’s planning staff and obtained approval to cram 350 apartments into the 9.3 acre site. Nine individuals appealed, slamming the developer’s use of a bait and switch tactic likely intended to avoid objections to the zoning change. An independent Hearing Examiner appointed by the City found in favor of the appellants and overturned the site plans’ approval.
Naomi Duerr, Council Member for Ward 2, gave a presentation during City Council’s January 13, 2021 meeting to request a change in zoning to permit only lower density housing, noting that in her original motion to grant commercial zoning she specifically added that she would initiate rezoning if that original project was not pursued. Duerr outlined reasons why the zoning should be changed from Commercial to MF-14 (Multi-Family-14), which limits developments to 14 housing units to the acre. MF-14 zoning would still allow the developer to build a development to the same density they originally promised and overcome the concerns of most residents. Both planning staff and city attorney Karl Hall found no legal implications with Duerr’s rezoning initiative. However, Council elected to put the rezoning initiative on hold over concerns about violating the open meeting law.
On January 25, 2021, Lyon Living, former partners with Reno Land, submitted plans to the city for a project that was very similar to its original project, with only a slight reduction in the number of housing units (314 instead of 350) and changing its marketing approach from rental apartments to condominiums. However, Reno’s planning staff instead found that the application was “substantially changed” from the original application and recommended that the Planning Commission approve of plans, even though the appearance of the tall and closely-spaced buildings was exactly the same as submitted in the previous site plan rejected by the Hearing Examiner.
The Planning Commission received 134 written comments and voicemails from residents opposed to the project and none from anyone in favor. Strong objections were made over density that wouldn’t match the neighborhood, excessive building heights that are two stories higher than any nearby residences, the inevitable loss of large trees along McCarran that have served to screen the site for years and would now expose the buildings, lack of sufficient on-site parking, increased traffic levels along the already-congested stretch of McCarran, lack of sufficient open space between buildings, and stark building designs that are not compatible with the one and two story residential neighborhood. The Planning Commission noted that these expensive condos would not fulfill any low-income housing needs and admitted that the proposed density would far exceed anything in the area, but voted to approve the project regardless.
Concerned citizens are planning to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to City Council for a hearing expected to occur in April or May. Stay tuned!
City councilmember, Naomi Duerr, hosted a “townhall” meeting over Zoom this evening: 21 citizens joined. She said that there have been 10 new applications with the city for big new developments in only the last 60 days. Apparently, most of it is not for affordable “infill” building but rather for expensive sprawl. She hosted this meeting to inform Ward-2 residents since there are not regular Neighborhood Advisory Board meetings at this time. Tonight’s meeting was scheduled to review The Canyons development which is north and east of Damonte Ranch High School uphill from the Palisades neighborhood. The Canyons project will come before the Reno City Council on Wednesday, March 10. Any e-mail messages or comments must be submitted Tuesday, March 9 to be considered at the meeting ( Public Comment Form ). The developer (Jack Dolan) is seeking approval of a Planned Unit Development handbook, a Special Use Permit (required for extensive grading), and a tentative map which shows the plan for the home lots and roads.
Residents expressed the following concerns
The Canyons development will block a route that the Virginia Range wild horses currently use to access water.
There is inadequate road capacity for evacuation in case of a wildfire.
The developer should not be allowed to increase traffic on roads through the existing neighborhoods.
Traffic is already near gridlock around the high school twice a day. Adding more homes using the same roads will make matters worse.
Police do not protect the neighbors from scofflaws who go street racing and drinking in the Palisades neighborhood.
Duerr made the following points.
She is asking the developer to move some residential lots 15′ back from the drainage way to protect against erosion and to make room for hikers.
She is asking the developer to remove a cul-de-sac with 5 homes to keep this out of the horse route (SE corner of property).
She is asking the developer to add a horse watering-tank at the NE corner of the property to discourage horse traffic through the development. She says that the Truckee Meadows Water Authority has confirmed that they can provide the water.
The new roads will connect to the existing roads Trail Rider and Claim Jumper.
There are plans for a new water tank uphill from the development. It will only be needed for the uppermost cluster of homes. The others will get water from the existing Palisades line. The new water tank would need to be built on the Canyon’s Edge property owned by Jack’s brother Jim.
The next new development uphill from The Canyons, Canyon’s Edge, will completely block wild horse access to water through this area.
The new development plans indicate a “desert motif” with low structures and low-water landscaping.
Reno Fire Department response time is 6-7 minutes when the standard is 6 minutes or less.
The traffic will get worse in the area. The bottleneck at Steamboat Parkway will be the worst.
She make the argument that residents are usually opposed to new development that changes the area and increases the population. She said that such opinions were unrealistic and that the development and population increase was inexorable. She did not point out that if the city would enforce reasonable zoning, the effects of growth would be less traumatic. She did not address the issue that the successful Daybreak suit indicated that the Reno Master Plan lacked credibility.
Look to the City Council meeting on Wednesday, March 10 for more news on this project. (AGENDA)
Check out the “In the Media” page for recent articles in the press regarding development.
The developer requested a judicial review of the denial of their appeal (below). This was heard by Judge Kathleen Drakulich (the aunt of “JD” Drakulich, an area developer and a city council candidate). She ordered that the city reconsider the development based on the specific requirements of the Mortensen-Garson Overlay District (MGOD) that defines the zoning for this area. Her ruling indicates that more general concerns should not be considered in the city’s decision.
The developer marked-up their tentative map (below) to include the following changes.
Reducing the total number of planned homes from 676 to 632 units.
This included the removal of all 26 sites that were on the eastern ridgeline.
Reconfiguration of the 23 lots on the southern ridgeline.
The addition of an emergency access road to the northeast.
Not adequately addressed even with the changes are the following.
The ridgelines are still not adequately protected as specified in the MGOD. This is especially true of the northern ridge.
The required wildlife corridors have not been planned or reviewed by NDOW.
The MGOD specifies where development can occur and which areas are required to be left as open space. The latest plan still has 200 homes planned in the area specified as open space.
There is no plan to improve the traffic regarding freeway access which is already a problem.
The city clerk received 44 letters in opposition and 22 letters of concern. Voicemails were received in addition which were not described.
Councilmember Reese moved that consideration should be continued until the March 10 city council meeting. He is not comfortable considering this project when Councilmember Jardon is not present since it is in her ward. Councilmember Brekhus is opposed to the continuance since it will likely cause overly long agendas for later meetings. She is also sensitive to developer complaints that the city is not responsive and does not consider development applications in a timely manner. Mayor Schieve noted that Councilmember Jardon has not met with this developer and that this is an important step in considering the project. The vote to continue was unanimous except for Councilmember Brekhus. City Attorney, Karl Hall, indicated that there is no deadline imposed by the court for the city to reconsider the development. The e-mails and voice-mail messages received will be presented at the later meeting.
In 2018 NDOT contracted with the traffic engineering consulting firm Kimberly/Horn to conduct a ‘Road Safety Assessment’ of Mt. Rose Highway. Their 39-page report with appendices was issued in August 2018 with more than 50 ‘suggestions’ for road safety improvements.
ON December 5, 2018 NDOT made a presentation to area residents to discuss the study, see summary of issues at this link…
While Mt. Rose Highway is a state road, and thus NDOT’s responsibility, virtually all of the intersecting roads and streets are COUNTY owned. So, solutions to the increasing traffic, multiple fatality/injury accidents, pedestrian safety and property damage accidents are a dual responsibility.
So, of the 50 or so traffic safety improvements suggested, what number of those have been completed in the ensuing two years? You guessed it…none.
But the carnage continues. A three-fatality traffic accident occurred at Thomas Creek Road and Mt. Rose Highway on November 10, 2018. Another two-vehicle accident resulting in two fatalities occurred last year at the intersection of Callahan Road and Mt. Rose Highway and another fatal accident occurred this year higher up on one of Mt. Rose Highway’s infamous hair-pin turns.
Mt. Rose Highway should be re-named the ‘Highway of Death’.
NDOT was requested on October 27, 2020 to brief the Washoe County Commission at an upcoming Commission meeting on this subject but no date for the briefing was specified, so do not look for it until next year.
Traffic safety does not seem to be a priority of NDOT nor our County Commissioners.
Thomas G. Daly is a Mt. Rose Highway corridor resident and a former Washoe County Planning Commissioner.
The reports are in from the candidates for campaign contributions through October 15, 2020. Here is a summary of what Reno Councilmembers and Washoe County Commissioners are getting from development interests.
Reno Ward-1 City Council
Jenny Brekhus, incumbent: $10,050
J D Drakulich, challenger: $136,880
Reno Ward-3 City Council
Oscar Delgado, incumbent: $64,000
Rudy Leon, challenger: $0
Reno Ward-5 City Council
Neoma Jardon, incumbent: $75,299
Darla Fink, challenger: $0
Reno At-Large City Council
Devon Reese, incumbent: $95,450
Eddie Lorton, challenger: $12,960
Washoe County Commission, District-1
Marsha Berkbigler, incumbent: $24,500
Alexis Hill, challenger: $3,800
Washoe County Commission, District-4
Vaughan Hartung, incumbent: $20,475
Marie Baker, challenger: $0
Developers really want to see Drakulich defeat Brekhus. They would much rather see a realtor representing Ward-1 rather than an urban planner who will oppose irresponsible development.
Developers have little love for the challengers. Other than Brekhus, the incumbents seem to be working for them just fine.
The incumbent county commissioners don’t think they need to mount vigorous campaigns.
We have had to face the fact that many of our commissioners and council members are shameless. They are not persuaded by logical arguments. They cannot be pressured by public sentiment. They cannot be shamed by public exposure of their subservience to the developers. Most appear to accept their ethical demise. That leaves only two avenues to effect change: the courts and the ballot box. Residents get a chance to express themselves at the ballot box every two years. Residents should seize the opportunity.
The Nevada Independent has an excellent review of the candidates running for the Sparks City Council.
Campaign contributions recorded 1/1/2020 – 7/15/2020
Note: this does not include contributions after July 15 which are likely to be substantial. The new contribution totals will be reported October 15. The new totals will be posted on WRAP as soon as possible.
Brekhus has proven herself to be smart, honest, and fiscally responsible. She opposes reckless development that will cause excessive traffic, flood risk, or school overcrowding. She opposes bond initiatives that are not well founded or responsibly written. Drakulich is a realtor seeking to join a council that is already overly favorable toward development.
Reno, Ward-2, Rudy Leon
Leon is a newcomer and has run a weak campaign against a popular incumbent. She is smart and ethical and has taken a stand against building in floodplains. Delgado has proven himself a shill of the developers with his approval of the Daybreak development. This development presents serious public safety risks of flooding, Mercury contamination, and traffic. He knows the hazards but voted to approve the project anyway.
Reno, Ward-5, Darla Fink
Fink is a newcomer, but an experienced professional with a Masters in Public Administration. She is concerned about the effects of growth on existing neighborhoods. She is also concerned about Reno’s budget and fiscal discipline. In contrast, Jardon is the candidate of the developers and is a consistent promoter of their interests. This is reflected in the campaign contributions she receives from them.
Reno, At Large, Eddie Lorton
A long-time Reno resident, Eddie has a grasp on the issues facing residents. He is opposed to the city’s approval of development that does not have the infrastructure in place to support it. Developers should pay for the infrastructure needed for their developments. Devon Reese is new to the council, but has been unwavering in his support of developers. They have responded with record campaign contributions. He has indignantly defended his ethical position, but it’s a logical to conclude that his votes and their contributions are related.
Washoe County, District-1, Alexis Hill
Hill is smart and dynamic. She is concerned about water availability, homelessness, sustainable growth, and government accountability. Berkbigler has strong ties with area realtors and developers and is a consistent vote for developers. A voter is left with the impression that she thinks that all growth is progress.
Washoe County, District-4, Marie Baker
Marie Baker provides us with little information other than that she is a native Nevadan. This is an opportunity to vote against Hartung who has proven himself a steadfast supporter of developers. Hartung will ask incisive, pointed questions during commission meetings only to vote with the developer when the answers are unsatisfactory. It is a form of theater.
The following is a guest blog submitted by Jim Christoff.
The owner of the Lakeridge Tennis Club decided to sell the property in 2019 to an LLC that included Reno Land working with Wood Rogers. The developer held public meetings regarding their plans and indicated that some of the recreational facilities would be retained on roughly half the property. Club members and neighbors were reassured that the development would be on a suitable scale. Reno Land went on to apply for a zoning change from “Specific Plan District” to “Community Commercial” for greater flexibility. The Reno City Council approved the zoning change on 9/23/19 (minutes see C1). The developer then submitted dramatically different plans including complete demolition of the existing facility and the construction of 350 apartments. This plan was approved by the Reno Planning Department. Nine individuals appealed the decision of the Planning Department and their appeals were heard by a Hearing Examiner appointed by the city. Many of those appeals claimed that the plans did not meet Reno’s municipal code. The Examiner agreed with the appellants. The developer then appealed to the Reno City Council to overturn the decision of the Examiner and allow the project to proceed. The appeal to City Council was on its agenda for August 26, 2020, and all sides were prepared to argue their cases in front of Council. Hundreds of letters, emails and voicemails were sent to the city in advance from citizens opposed to the project. However, less than 5 hours before the meeting, the developer withdrew their plans and as a result the developer’s appeal was not heard. The developer may have concluded that they would get a more favorable hearing after the November elections. Appellants claimed that the developer acted in bad faith relative to the neighbors and Club members by using ‘bait and switch’ tactics. As stated by the Hearing Examiner, “Reno Land representatives were clear and almost unequivocal: Reno Land intended to keep key parts of the Club and build apartments on a smaller scale than what has been presented in the SPR before us now.” Over 200 neighbors and Club members had attended the public meetings to see the developer’s plans. This now appears to have been a ruse by the developer in order to induce citizens to accept a change in zoning instead of contesting it during the subsequent Council meeting. The later plan would put 350 apartments in eight 4-story buildings on the 9.3 acre site. The developer went on to claim that the 350 apartments would generate less traffic than visitors to the Club, estimated by the former general manager to be 100 to 150 visitors daily. This appears absurd. In addition, the development provided only 392 parking spaces for 350 apartments, forcing any additional vehicles to park on adjacent streets. Lakeridge Tennis Club was once northern Nevada’s largest multipurpose facility, offering year-round indoor and outdoor tennis and swimming as well as a fitness center, aerobics studio, basketball, racquetball, squash, Zumba and pilates. The Club had a dining room open to the public with indoor and outdoor seating offering views of tennis games in progress. It was home to the Lakeridge Swim Team, which trained many future athletes who ultimately became members of the US Olympic Swim Team. Membership was open to anyone and the Club was considered a quasi-public facility because it served the fitness and recreational needs of citizens as well as providing financial assistance and scholarships to those in need. Once the elections are over, the council members may be less sensitive to the interests of their constituents. At that point the developer may re-submit the plan and pursue the appeal. Stay tuned!