Sewer Bond Approved by the State

Debbie Lauchner (Finance Director) gave a budget report to the Reno City Council last week (3/25/20).  She mentioned that the $55M sewer-bond request had been approved by the state and that the first $2.6M had been disbursed.

The Reno-Stead Water Reclamation Facility (RSWRF) bond was controversial since the treated effluent mostly flows to Swan Lake and contributes to the flood hazard.  The plan is to double the RSWRF plant’s capacity from 2 million gallons per day (mgd) to 4 mgd.  The increased capacity is needed to support new development in the North Valleys.  The bond was originally denied by the Planning Commission due to the lack of a credible plan to dispose of the additional effluent.  The city council later approved the plan.  A condition of the expansion was that the plant not contribute any more effluent into the Swan Lake basin than it presently does.  Several schemes were considered to dispose of the additional 2 mgd including building a new reservoir to support evaporation, spraying the liquid into the air to cause evaporation, or injecting it into the drinking water aquifer after treating it to a Class-A+ standard.  Since the plant expansion was approved, these schemes have been proven not feasible.  The evaporation was considered too risky.  The site identified for a new reservoir was judged not suitable.  There is no plan to build a plant to improve the effluent quality to a Class-A+ standard so that it could be injected.  So, the plans to expand the plant are moving forward and the money is being disbursed, but there is no credible scheme to handle the increased effluent volume.  This has been likened to starting to build a bridge with no plan as to how to finish it on the far bank.

Tammy Holt-Still of the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee, wrote a letter (RSWRF-bond) to the governor and top state officials pointing out the reasons why the bond request should be denied.  Unfortunately, it appears that the decision to approve the bond had already been made.  It may be largely a “rubber stamp” process on the part of the state.  The letter makes the point that the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection should address the issue of the large volumes of water being “imported” into the basin from Honey Lake (via the Vidler pipeline) and from the Truckee River.  There needs to be a “water balance” analysis performed to confirm that water coming into the basin is balanced by the consumption and outflow.  Given the past practice, Lemmon Valley residents are rightfully worried that the effluent flows will end up flooding them once again.  One would hope that losing the class-action suit would make the city more wary of rampant development in the North Valleys: this does not appear to be the case.

Lands Bill in Congress

Thanks to Kyle Roerink of the Great Basin Water Network for this guest post.

Last week Rep. Mark Amodei signaled that he will be pushing federal legislation that sells off 90,000 acres of public lands in Washoe County into the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Amodei has not been shy about wanting to move the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act and other “lands” bills this Congress. But the mad dash to get something done in the NDAA undermines the defense authorization process and ignores the needs of the region.

The Truckee Meadows proposal sprawls the north valleys of Reno without adequately addressing demands on social services, emergency response teams, roadways, schools, and utilities. Nothing in the measure addresses climate change or the long-term future of our water supply. We must demand that this public-lands sell-off not move forward for now. The public needs more time to engage with officials, planners, and scientists to look at the impacts of a bill that will invite hundreds of thousands of new people to the region in the coming years.

What makes the NDAA attractive for the lands bills’ proponents? The NDAA is a rare bill that passes every year.  But this year is extra special for Nevada. By 2021, the Navy must legislatively reauthorize its Fallon Range Training Complex and the Air Force must reauthorize its operations at the Nevada Test and Training Range. The NDAA is the vehicle to do that. Since the Navy and Air force reauthorizations have to move this year, developers, local officials and other pro-bill interests think they can hitch a tangential wagon to a bill that will inevitably pass.

But let’s be clear: The Truckee Meadows proposal has nothing to do with the military. Right now, it is a pro-sprawl bill.

Including the military bills, Washoe is one of 12 Nevada lands proposals that’s in the NDAA conversation. All said, the total amount of public land lost to the military or to be put up for sale is about 3 million acres.

My organization, the Great Basin Water Network, recently joined with groups like the NAACP, League of Women Voters, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, the Center for Biological Diversity and others to tell the Nevada Congressional Delegation to slow down the process for the Truckee Meadows measure.

The Truckee Meadows proposal will define the future of our communities in Washoe County. Especially in the face of a public health crisis, let’s be prudent, slow down, and get this right.

New Lands Bill Gets No Love

Last week, there was a public open house to introduce the new Lands Bill and then a second meeting to air public comment regarding the bill.  The open house apparently shared little information or details about how it would change the region.  In the second meeting, scorn was heaped on the plan with some intimations of corruption on the part of public servants who were promoting it.  The citizens were clear in their opposition: the local authorities should take notice.  See some of the reviews below.  There is little information about the bill, so there is not a lot of detail to report.  It’s a huge area (90,000 acres), but there is no plan as to what will be wilderness, open space, commercial development or residential development.

Pamela Galloway’s report: Lands bill meeting

ThisIsReno: Lands_Bill

Bob Fulkerson (of PLAN) “Sprawl Bill”

Reno Gazette Journal: “County Rolls Out Lands Bill …”

LATE ADDITION: The Sierra Ally: “Strong opposition voiced …”

 

Meridian 120-South Approved (Mostly)

Wednesday night, the Reno Planning Commission narrowly approved the tentative maps for Meridian 120-South villages 1, 2, 5, and 6.  The tentative maps for villages 3 and 4 were narrowly denied.  The Meridian 120-South development is on the south side of I-80 across from Boomtown in Verdi.  The property has been annexed by the City of Reno within the Mortensen-Garson Overlay District (MGOD).  The maps are for 621 homes on lots as small as 9,000 sqft; 11,000 sqft average.

Water will be provided by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority which bought the local water service that was based on wells (West Reno Water System).  John Enloe said their plan was to bring in water from TMWA with well water during the peak demand period in the summer.  The plan is to build a new fire station using funds collected “per door” from the developer of $1,608.  The developer will provide a site for the fire station.  The first homes will get sprinklers since there will not be a fire station available with a satisfactory response time.  Andy Durling, of Wood Rogers,  gave a presentation representing the developer (021920A).

Heather Manzo, Reno planner, gave a presentation (021920B) and reported that the planning department recommended approval for the tentative maps and the Special Use Permits.  A favorable recommendation can be expected with Angela Fuss managing that department.  The traffic report was produced by Paul Solaegui who is known for misleading traffic reports.  The biggest issue is that there is only one access road suitable for emergency vehicles in the event of a wildfire.  This is a violation of Reno and Washoe codes.  A second access road will be built before the 250th home is built.  This is a condition of approval.

Residents broadly opposed this development seen in 59 public comments both written and spoken.  Residents made the following points.

  • The dense cluster designs of villages 1 and 2 are incompatible with the area that was zoned for 1 home per acre.  The zoning under MGOD is SF-15 (15,000 sqft lots) not for SF-9 (9,000 sqft lots).
  • Additional vehicle traffic will hurt air quality.
  • The development will be built on a meadow that routinely floods.  The impervious surfaces will mean more runoff and flooding of neighbors.  Also, the meadow serves to recharge the aquifer below, so the available water for wells will be reduced.
  • Funds will be collected for a new fire station, but there is no clear requirement that the new fire station will be built or staffed.  Reno has admitted that they can’t afford to staff a new station.
  • Wildfires are a regular hazard in the area: they had one last year.  The contract with the developer is written that all the fire station money will be refunded to the developer if the development is not completed in 10 years.  Many residents have horses or livestock which will make evacuation that much more difficult.
  • Deer roam the area and there is no plausible “wildlife corridor” in the tentative map for wildlife to reach the Truckee.  This is a significant issue: deer currently roam the town.  The MGOD requires that a wildlife corridor be specified at the time of tentative map submission.
  • There is an initiative underway to revise the Mortensen-Garson Overlay District.  A lot has changed since it was written.  Also, the “handbook” that has most of the specifics has expired leaving an ambiguous mess.  Approval of this large development should wait till we see the results of the updated overlay proposal.
  • Homes in new developments in Verdi are not selling well.  There is no need for another large development.
  • TMWA does not have the plans or the budget to bring water to this new development.
  • The traffic report does not follow established guidelines from the Institute of Traffic Engineering (ITE) manual about traffic calculations regarding Average Daily Trips (ADT).  Planned developments will add 20,000 ADT to the narrow overpass built in 1964.  See the presentation (021920C).  The MGOD stipulated that the overpass would be widened before development could proceed.
  • The public notice postings were mounted to poles on private land so that they could not be read without trespassing.
  • The traffic study contains no consideration of the many other developments planned for the area.
  • The conditions placed on the development need to be met during final map review which is not open to the public.  [Editorial note: only 30% of the flood-mitigation features required for developments in Lemmon Valley were in compliance.  They were apparently never inspected by Reno to verify compliance.]

Commissioners asked quite probing questions about the development details.  The questions reflected a healthy skepticism of the reports provided by the developer and by the Reno staff.  It was also clear that the commissioners were seeking to address the questions and concerns raised during public comment.

Velto pressed Solaegui about specific results in his traffic report.  Solaegui did not explain clearly where his traffic data came from except that it was “historical patterns” (or something to that effect).  He claimed to follow the ITE manual.  Solaegui seemed to assert that a traffic circle has almost unlimited capacity and allows traffic to flow through virtually unimpeded.  This is demonstrably false (see Veterans Parkway Circle at rush hour).  Commissioners Marshall, Johnson, and Taylor all had detailed questions for Solaegui.

Hawkins asked Reno Fire Chief Cochran about fire service in the area.  Taylor asked about wildfire risk.  Cochran replied that he was comfortable with the “cost/benefit trade off”.  This does not sound reassuring to residents.  Marshall asked if Cochran had the resources to staff a new station.  Cochran was evasive.  Gower asked whether the fees collected from the developer could pay for a new station.  Cochran said a new station would run about $5.5M while an additional $1.5M would be needed for a fire engine and a brush (fire) truck.  Staffing would cost about $1.8M a year.  Collecting fees on 3,000 homes (maximum permissible under MGOD) would not cover the estimated cost to build the fire station ($4.7M).

There was some discussion regarding wildlife corridors.

The commissioners moved on to discuss the issues on the dais.

Gower expressed concern about having only one emergency service access entry.  He was also concerned about pedestrian safety in the tentative map.  He thinks the developer will pass on fee costs to the new owners making the homes less affordable.

Velto felt that the Planning Commission was exploring issues outside of its purview and should stick to applying the zoning requirements.  The decision shouldn’t wait till the new text amendment is done.  The checks and conditions will guarantee a good project.

Taylor agreed that the commission shouldn’t “look outside our role”.

Marshall made the point that under Reno’s master plan, sprawl-type growth is given the lowest priority since there is no infrastructure present and it does not contribute to a sustainable city.  He has no confidence that the infrastructure will be ready concurrently.  The wildlife corridors don’t meet the MGOD requirements.  The overpass should be rebuilt first with vias for pedestrians and cyclists.

Olivas asserted that infrastructure will follow development, so there is no reason to wait.

Hawkins believes that the infrastructure plans are inadequate.

Johnson said he “struggled with the density” and that this development depends on vague future requirements.  There are a lot of details missing at this time.  He does not like the fact that many of the issues are to be resolved in the future outside of the public eye.

The votes went as follows.  Villages 1 and 2 already had a special use permit approved.

The tentative map for villages 1 and 2 was approved (4-3).

  • Velto, Taylor, Olivas, and Johnson voting yes.
  • Gower, Hawkins, and Marshall voting no.

The tentative map and special use permit for villages 3 and 4 was denied (4-3).

  • Velto, Taylor, and Olivas voting yes.
  • Gower, Hawkins, Marshall, and Johnson voting no.

The tentative map and special use permit for villages 5 and 6 was approved (4-3).

  • Velto, Taylor, Olivas, and Johnson voting yes.
  • Gower, Hawkins, and Marshall voting no.

This was a long meeting starting at 6:00 PM and ending at 11:35 PM.

Reno Swamp #1: Rogues Gallery

Most voters decry the “swamp” of corruption, favoritism and self-dealing that seems to define Washington DC (although not all see it from the same perspective).  You can see the swamp locally in that dark tower on First Street.  I’m starting with a few recent examples.

Mayor Hillary Schieve

Schieve hosted a fundraiser to support the candidacy of Britton Griffith for Reno City Council running against Jenny Brekhus in Ward 1.  Brekhus is the only “pro” on the city council with a degree in Urban Planning.  Griffith is a principal in her father’s firm, Reno Engineers, that does work for developers.  Griffith served on the Reno Planning Commission and had to recuse herself frequently from decisions since many developments under consideration involved Reno Engineers.  This is a case of bringing the fox into the hen house.  It reflects very poorly on Mayor Schieve who may be bent on preserving “Old Reno” where the public interest is subordinate to favors for special interests.  She seems to crave a veneer of decorum and civility to mask the ethical rot.

Council Member Bonnie Weber

Weber hosted a meeting for the North Valleys Developers.  Her affinity for builders probably stems from the fact that her husband works for a builder.  It is a tenet of her service that she consistently supports developers before the city council.  The problem with this meeting is that the invitation (bonnie webber flyer) came on official Reno City Council letterhead, but the RSVP responses went to her campaign manager.  Beyond that, Angela Fuss, the new Reno Planning Manager was in attendance.  One concerned citizen was told she was not welcome to attend.  This appears to have been a private campaign fundraiser promoted as an official city function with city staff members present.  That would be unethical in multiple dimensions.  This has spurred an ethics complaint.

Council Member Neoma Jardon

Jardon failed to file her Contribution and Expense reports on time for the report due January 15, 2019.  She filed this on January 2, 2020.  This may have been simply an oversight, but it did mask campaign contributions from Marmot Properties for nearly a year.  Marmot is seeking approval for projects under Schieve’s “1,000 homes” incentive program.  The Nevada Secretary of State could fine Jardon for this violation.

Assistant City Manager Bill Thomas

Thomas’s responsibility in Reno included Community Development, Infrastructure, Public Works, and Development.  Yet, his financial disclosure form indicates that he is an owner of Evans Ranch LLC.  This is a giant speculative development above Cold Springs.  It is a far-flung project which will be extremely dependent on Reno extending infrastructure to support it.  This is a glaring conflict of interest.  (Thomas_Disclosure)  Thomas has just been approved as the Executive Director of the RTC.  This is a happy coincidence for him since Evans Ranch will require substantial highway development.  It will likely mean the widening of Red Rock Road and Lemmon Drive.  Council Member Brekhus opposed his nomination with a letter to the RTC board (Brekhus-letter_021220).  The RTC board, which includes council members Jardon and Delgado, approved the Thomas nomination unanimously despite Thomas’s apparent conflict of interest.  Bob Lissner is a partner on Evans Ranch.  He is represented by Jessica Sferrazza (former city council member turned super-lobbyist at the city hall) who is a close to personal friend and campaign promoter to Schieve.  Follow the dots: Thomas-Lissner-Sferrazza-Schieve.

Planning Manager Angela Fuss

Fuss was a representative for Lumos (developer consultant) and worked for another development consultant before that.  Last year, she was hired by the City of Reno to run their Planning Department.  She was only separated from Lumos for a few weeks.  One may assume that any request from a developer can expect the most favorable treatment from the Reno bureaucracy: they have a friend “inside”.

An ethical government would be concerned about any appearance of an ethical compromise or a conflict of interest.  In Reno, there is no such concern.  The malfeasance is in public view.  Voters are left to wonder “if money is changing hands.”

 

 

 

Lands Bill 2020

There is a new version of the Washoe County Lands Bill (aka Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act) that will provide land from the federal government for various uses by Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County.  There is not a lot of information available, but it looks very similar to the Lands Bill that was proposed in 2018.  This is a huge area: 90,000 acres; halfway to the Oregon border.  It includes Petersen Mountain and Bedell Flats.

In short …

The federal government owns about 85% of Nevada land including some in the Truckee Meadows area.  Some of this land is in lone parcels making a kind of checkerboard pattern of private property, city property, county property, and federal property.  It does not lend itself to logical planning in the area and the federal agencies would rather not be responsible for all these far-flung pieces.  So, the federal government can provide the properties to Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County under certain conditions and for specific uses.  This requires an act of congress (really).  There is a draft bill somewhere to present to congress that includes Washoe County.  In 2018, the bill failed.  There was a lot of public protest in the provisions for various reasons.  The ranchers in the North didn’t like the new wilderness areas that were created which restricted grazing.  Mining interests didn’t like the areas that would be made inaccessible for mining.  In the Truckee Meadows, residents didn’t like the urban sprawl that the newly available properties would likely engender.

Favoring the bill …

  • Rational: it would be more logical to have the properties be contiguous for the purposes of urban planning by the local governments and it would be less of a burden for federal management.  This applies only to a small fraction of the area being considered.
  • Wilderness: large areas would be set aside as wilderness areas which are natural treasures that would be preserved from mining and ranching and destructive recreation (such as ATV’s and target shooting).  Approval of these wilderness areas does not appear to be assured.
  • Open Space: some of the areas would need to be made into recreation areas for hiking, riding, cycling, and other uses.

Drawbacks …

  • Sprawl: the reason the bill is being advanced is that special interests are looking to make a profit.  For all the talk of wilderness and open space, the proponents really want to see more property made available for development in the form of urban sprawl.  This is highly profitable for both local and out-of-state developers especially since the taxpayers bear the cost of the infrastructure.  If you’re not happy with the way the area has grown with increasing traffic and increasing school overcrowding, this Lands Bill will allow the situation to become a lot worse.  Reno routinely approves zoning amendments for destructive new developments that are not compliant with the master plan.  The Lands Bill will give the authorities a lot more acreage on which to practice their malfeasance.
  • Taxes: the developer fees cover less than 25% of the road improvement costs according to RTC.  Washoe County residents are paying for the new schools that are needed to support development.  The taxpayers are being forced to subsidize development that is only profiting the developers.
  • Water: the Truckee Meadows Water Authority is secretive about how much water is available, but always claims there is plenty of water for the next big development.
  • Housing: the local governments claim that much more housing is needed so more property is needed for development.  This is belied by the fact that over 74,000 homes have been approved but are not yet built in the area.  This is roughly sufficient for 40 years of anticipated growth.  So, the housing shortage is not due to a lack of availability of property for development.  The development of sprawl is more profitable, so we see less infill and less development consistent with area master plans.

Local Meetings …

Local Meetings have been set up on short notice to describe the bill and to entertain public “input”.  A good turnout at these events will lend substance to the public voice.

TRUCKEE MEADOWS PUBLIC LANDS MANAGEMENT ACT

Public Open House:
When: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 from 4-7 p.m.
Where: Reno-Sparks Convention Center, 4590 South Virginia Street, Reno
Why: This public open house is an opportunity to come and learn more about the Lands Bill.

Public Input Meeting:
When: Thursday, February 20, 2020 from 4-7 p.m.
Where: Reno-Sparks Convention Center, 4590 South Virginia Street, Reno
Why: This meeting is an opportunity to provide specific input about the Lands Bill.

 

Note: the map takes a minute to load.

WEBSITE          MAP          Reno Memo

 

 

 

Fire Coverage Contention

The following is a guest post submitted by Tom Daley.  It was printed in the Reno Gazette Journal as an op-ed piece.

Automatic fire aid – The Mayor doth protest too much

On January 22, 2020 the Reno City Council considered the appeal of the Reno City Planning Commission’s denial of the Mortensen Ranch development (west of Somersett and north of I-80). When considering the required findings, Mayor Schieve learned that her fire department could not reach this development within their approved response time, giving her no choice but to sustain the Planning Commission’s denial of the project.
When her Fire Marshal testified that the closer Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District (TMFPD) Station #40 Mogul, could reach the entry point to this development within 4-5 minutes, the Mayor launched into a rant about why the County (District) was not serving this area, suggesting that such response was a necessity for public safety. She conveniently omitted the fact that this City annexed part of the County and its property tax revenue now go to City coffers, despite the City being unable to service it, while demanding the County (TMFPD) do so for free.
A little history is in order.
On March 15, 2012 Reno’s manager Andrew Clinger, at the direction of Mayor Bob Cashell, terminated the existing automatic aid agreement between Reno and the TMFPD, effective April 15, 2012.   Despite subsequent offers by the TMFPD Board of Fire Commissioners, the City refused to renew that agreement.
In the 2015 legislative session a bill was introduced to require automatic aid for fires within Washoe County (SB-185 – Kieckhefer). Mayor Schieve and her puppet master fire union, IAFF Local 731, vociferously opposed the legislation. Despite their opposition, the bill passed unanimously in the state Assembly, with only one dissenting vote in the state Senate and was signed into law.
The subsequent initial TMFPD/Reno automatic aid agreement for fires was for one year and, when expired, a multi-year extension was approved spanning October 2016 – June 2019. The TMFPD Board approved a further extension on May 21, 2019 (June 2019 thru June 2021) and the City Council approved that extension on June 12, 2019.
So yes, Mayor Schieve, the TMFPD will continue to bail your City out for free, providing your dispatchers ask for help, but only until our Fire Commissioners revise the agreement to provide greater equity for TMFPD taxpayers.
And finally, Mayor, you might heed the paraphrased colloquy of Col. Jessep (‘A Few Good Men’), with respect to TMFPD’s help,
‘Reno wants us on that call, Reno needs us on that call.…so I’d rather you just say, ‘thank you’ and go on your way!’

 

Thomas G. Daly
Thomas Daly is a resident of Washoe County and lives in the TMFPD.