Sierra Reflections Extension Denied 4/26/2022

The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners denied an extension for the developer to file a final map for the Sierra Reflections project until June 14, 2024. The tentative map for this project was approved in 2006 and expired in 2010. It has been repeatedly extended contrary to the intent of the development requirements. It is a “poster child” for the problems of zombie projects. Zombie projects are those that are extended past their deadlines. These projects may or may not “come back to life” many years later.

Tom Daly (a previous Washoe County Planning Commissioner and candidate for NV Assembly-26) wrote a compelling piece about the problems with this extension and the problem of zombie projects in general. Tom sent this to the county commissioners in advance of the meeting and presented it during public comment.

“As I am unable to attend this meeting and testify in person, I am requesting this ‘public comment’ be entered into the formal record for this meeting with copies distributed to each Commissioner.

For the record, I am Tom Daly from the Estates at Mt. Rose and, as a matter of full disclosure, a Republican candidate for Nevada Assembly District 26 in the 2022 primary election.

The proposal to extend the filing deadline for this development is an abuse of process by the developer, aided and abetted by the County Planning Department.  The proposed extension further discriminates against, and makes a mockery of, other developers who ‘play by the rules’ and meet the generous four-year period for filing a final map after approval of their tentative map.

  • Are there any commitments by Washoe County, the Washoe County School District (WCSD), the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District (TMFPD) or REMSA to match their ability to provide more services to the massive increase in demand this project will impose?  I see none in the staff report.
  • The leadership of the Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue (TMF&R) has, on more than one occasion, testified that they lack sufficient resources to serve existing demands for service within their District. 
  • REMSA is so understaffed and equipped that they can no longer serve this area within the recommended 8-minute response time, adding more demands on Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue (TMF&R) to pick up the slack.  TMF&R has no ambulance capability in the Pleasant Valley area from their two closest stations, #32 East Washoe and #33 Foothill.
  • Where is the traffic analysis to determine the impact on existing roads?
  • Where is the analysis of the impact on schools to determine future capacity or address the issue of schools now at or over capacity?

Given these negative impacts and the lack of information on same in the staff report, I would urge you to deny this request and require a re-submittal for a new tentative map.  Alternatively, and at a minimum, the Commission should add new ‘conditions of approval’ to ensure the final map for this development meets the current editions of the Development Code and the Area Plan.”

This item is a “first reading” and was listed under the “Consent Agenda” rather than “Public Comment”. If the first reading is not “introduced” the motion dies and the extension is denied.

The Washoe County planning manager made a presentation. This included a history of the multiple extensions to the deadline for the final map. The developer claims to be waiting for the required water and sewer capacity to be built for these 938 units.

Commissioner Lucey “I have problems with extending the deadline again for a project that does not know what it is going to be. ” “This is a very large project with a lot of needs that seems very ominous.” “The applicants should reexamine their project and reapply.” “This is not how development should go in our community.”

Commissioner Hartung “There are real problems with water resources in this area.” “Planning has changed. Requirements have changed. Egress [evacuation] has changed.”

Under Public Comment, residents made the following points.

  • Water for Pleasant Valley is already over-allocated.
  • The Planning Staff first reviewed the project in 2004. Much has changed since 2004.
  • This development is a “slippery slope” introducing urban densities in a rural area.
  • This development is not consistent with the Washoe County Master Plan. The Master Plan was changed in 2010, but this development has not been identified as consistent with the current Master Plan.
  • There are 19 parcels with average density of 14,000 sf lots. This is a far cry from this development that will have some condominiums on lots as small as 1,100 sf. Some home parcels are only 6,000 sf.

The developer made the argument that this development was negotiated in lieu of a big resort on the site and that it had been reviewed and approved repeatedly. He claimed that the delays were due to the slow progress on the sewer extension in the area. The development is moving forward with traffic and engineering studies. He asserted that the project fits the area, and that if they had to re-submit it, they would submit the same design.

Lucey commented that this may have seemed to be a great project when it was approved, but that was in 2006. The community and the area have changed since then. The project has not evolved.

Hartung said he’s not in favor of “clustering” [which allows high unit densities on a small fraction of a parcel]. He understands the utility, but does not like it. He wants the parcel-size requirements to be maintained.

No commissioner moved to “introduce” the proposal to extend the deadline. It therefore fails. The existing agreement will expire in June 2022.

AGENDA

MEETING VIDEO

Reno Planning Commission 4/20/2022

The Canyons

The The developer is requesting approval for grading for two water tanks for The Canyons and The Canyon’s Edge developments (developer presentation). The Planned Use Development zoning was approved last year. The plan has changed from a single water tank to using two tanks. There was also a presentation from Reno Planning Staff. The planning department recommended approval. There was no public comment in person or by e-mail. The motion was approved unanimously.

Gateway at Galena

The developer gave a presentation. The plan is for 361 condominiums with both integral and detached garages on 34 acres adjacent to the UNR Redfield Campus on the Mount Rose Highway at the intersection with Wedge Pkwy. The existing zoning is Mixed-Use Suburban. The Master Plan identified it as space for a possible expansion of the Redfield Campus. Their plan is for 11 units per acre which is less than the 30 units per acre typical for this zoning. The buildings will be 3 stories with the ground floor being mostly garages. The Reno Planning Staff had a presentation. The annexation request will go to the Reno City Council in May. Staff recommended approval. The motion was approved unanimously.

Meridian 120

The developer’s attorney came to the Planning Commission requesting that three conditions of approval be approved, amended, or deleted for the Meridian 120 South development. The attorney complained that residents were trying to delay work on the project with an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court following a loss in district court. The developer is seeking changes to the tentative map approved in 2020. The attorney made a presentation . There was also a staff presentation.

The developer is asking for approval of Condition #28 to rezone 8.3 acres of industrial-commercial to open space. This zoning change will require a master-plan amendment and so will require the approval of the city council as well as the regional planning commission (TMRPA). Staff supports the zoning change and master plan amendment. The recommendation for approval passed unanimously.

The developer wanted the planning commission to drop condition #31 for emergency secondary access to I-80. This condition was applied by the city council. The developer claimed that this access was not necessary and impossible to satisfy. The condition was for the developer to explore the possibility of providing a secondary emergency access to I-80. The developer met with NDOT, and was told that connecting to I-80 was not possible. The development of the adjacent Santerra project makes secondary emergency access available in conjunction with Santerra.

  • Reno Fire Marshall (Palmer): agrees with staff that condition #31 is no longer needed. Developer proposal meets fire code using the Santerra access. Even if the total 3,000 units ($1,600 contribution for each unit) are built, it will not cover the cost of a new fire station, equipment and staffing. [Taxpayers will be subsidizing this development.]
  • The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend to the city council to drop this condition.

The developer is asking that condition #4 be amended for this project. This condition requires that the developer get the Mortensen-Garson Overlay District (MGOD) amended to increase the housing units above the 3,000-unit cap, or to negotiate with other developers working in the area to get additional units under the 3,000-unit cap. The developer wants to build triplex homes in the area zoned Arterial Commercial (AC), but this would exceed the 3,000-unit cap by 285 units. The suggested amendment would indicate that the AC-zoned parcel was exempt from the 3,000-unit cap.

The attorney claimed:

  • Other developers will not trade them units to stay under the 3,000-unit cap.
  • The MGOD cannot be amended at this time due to ongoing litigation.
  • The MGOD cap does not apply to residential units built in the area zoned Arterial Commercial. The cap was intended to apply only to areas zoned as residential. The Arterial Commercial zoning does not have a cap for residential density.
  • Zoning normally allows for up to a 10% density increase which would cover the additional 285 units based on the 3,000-unit cap.

The staff report did not support the claim that the AC-zoned parcel did not fall under the 3,000-unit cap.

Public Comment

Representatives of the Society for the Preservation of Verdi made a presentation. Speakers made the following points.

  • The developer’s argument is a smokescreen intended to exceed the MGOD limit of 3,000 units total.
  • This limit was affirmed by a recent court decision against the adjacent Stan Lucas development.
  • There is an appeal in the Meridian 120 South case before the NV Supreme Court regarding the unit cap.
  • Using the Arterial Commercial zoning for residential makes it subject to the density caps.
  • The AC zoning would only allow 100 units additional: it is not “unlimited” as claimed.
  • The MGOD overlay district takes precedence over Reno zoning.
  • Changes to the MGOD are on hold pending litigation. It might be subject to amendment after the litigation is concluded.
  • It would likely be convenient to residents to have commercial businesses on the frontage road as it is currently zoned.
  • The I-80 overpass and ramps are not to the current standard and will not support greatly expanded traffic.

Commissioner Discussion

The planning commission is making a recommendation to the city council which will have authority regarding the conditions.

  • Commissioner Johnson can’t make the findings for this level of density in this area. He certainly can’t support a proposed increase.
  • Commissioner Gower won’t support it: he does not think the “density bonus” of 10% applies to the MGOD as a whole. He thinks the 3,000 unit cap stands independent of zoning.

The motion passed 4-2 recommending the developer’s request to the city council.

Meeting Video

Booming Development 04/23/22

The development keeps the calendar full.

Sierra Reflections Development Agreement (Washoe County, Agenda), Tuesday, April 26, 2022 (first reading)

  • This is a zombie project first approved in 2008. It represents an extension of the luxury home development of St. James Village reaching into Pleasant Valley between the 580 freeway and Old 395. This is a huge development that will build 938 homes on 760 acres. It will dramatically change the character of Pleasant Valley and Steamboat Valley. This is an agreement to extend the deadline for the submission of the final map until June 2024. It’s how the county keeps zombie projects “on the books” with absurd extensions. The process indicates that the tentative map approval of 2008 should have expired in 2012. The developer should seek approval for a new plan conforming to the current requirements.

Reno/Tahoe Business Gateway news (Mogul, Washoe County), Tuesday, May 3, 2022

This detailed summary is courtesy of Carli Borchard.

“This property is now part of Washoe County, previously it was under the City of Reno Sphere of Influence. The project being proposed is also different, however, it will still produce too much traffic for the already impacted infrastructure, as well as make a major impact on this historic and scenic property. On April 7, 2022 the Washoe Board of Adjustment denied this project based on the inability to make 3 findings #1 Consistency; #2 Issuance Not Detrimental (traffic and improvements); #4 Detrimental to area/lots. The WSUP22-00006 Action Order attached has more details.

This is good news that the Special Use Permit for major grading has been unanimously denied. However, the applicant, S3 Development Co. (Blake Smith) will undoubtedly appeal the decision to the Washoe County Board of Commissioners. They have until Thursday, April 21 to file this appeal and then we will have more information regarding a hearing date.

Now – this is confusing: The courts have held that NRS 278.3195(4) only allows a petition for Judicial Review by a person who appealed a planning commission decision. To preserve the ability to file a petition for Judicial Review, the homeowners need to appeal the planning commission decision with which they agree. So, Mogul residents also plan to appeal.

The applicant is also requesting the zoning be changed to industrial rather than commercial. The meeting on this matter is tentatively set for May 3, 2022.”

REFERENCE

Contact the Reno City Council with your concerns by e-mail or voice-mail here. Mayor Schieve and Councilmembers Weber and Duerr are running for re-election.

Contact the Washoe County Commissioners by e-mail or voice-mail here. County commissioners Lucey and Herman are up for re-election in November

Booming Development 4/19/2022

As the economy booms with the end of the pandemic (mostly) we’re seeing a boom in building and new development projects. The boom in real estate pricing is making all kinds of projects profitable, and the development interests are moving forward. The developers are seeking approvals, adjustments, extensions, and relief from requirements.

Coming up this week.

Meridian 120-South (Reno Planning Commission), Wednesday, April 20, 2022

This detailed summary is courtesy of Carli Borchard.

“The Meridian 120 South project, Villages 1 – 6, was approved in June, 2020. Along with that approval came certain “conditions” upon which the approval is contingent. The applicant is now requesting an amendment to one of these conditions, and has requested one of the conditions be deleted.

The applicant would like to amend Condition of Approval #4 so that 285 townhomes can be built. This specific condition was put on the project because by allowing that many townhomes the project would exceed the maximum density allowed within Phase 3 of the Mortensen Garson Overlay District (MGOD). It was never intended that more than 3,000 units would be allowed in this area, therefore, the MGOD specifies how many units can be built (by parcel) with a cap of UP TO 3,000 residential units. The south side of I-80 is allowed a total of 1,799 residential units. These 285 Townhomes (Villages 3 & 4) are in the area right along the freeway zoned Arterial Commercial. According to the City of Reno, townhouses are an allowed use under Arterial Commercial, however, these units would increase the intended density outlined in the MGOD and the Original Handbook. Additionally, allowing this developer to increase the density sets a precedent that may allow other developers with the same or similar zoning to increase their density. City Staff is recommending re-wording the condition, since the Text Amendment process was never finalized, but are still requiring the applicant to negotiate and provide documentation on a reallocation of units amongst other developers. The attached Staff Report (Agenda – Wednesday, April 20) gives MANY more details and history. [item 6.8]

The applicant is also requesting to delete Condition of Approval #31; a requirement to construct a second point of emergency access to I-80. The applicant has stated that NDOT will not allow access to the Freeway at any point of their project and are therefore unable to adhere to this requirement. Their main access will be the Garson Overpass (offering no improvements) along with utilizing the secondary access road through the Santerra Quilici Project to the West. City Staff is recommending this condition be deleted. It would seem reasonable to require documentation from NDOT that they have in fact reviewed this project and denied access to I-80.”

Gateway at Galena (Reno Planning Commission), Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The developer for this new project adjacent to the TMCC Redfield Campus is presenting their tentative map to the Reno Planning Commission. The plan is for 361 condominiums on 34 acres. While it is south of the Mount Rose Highway, it is within Reno’s “sphere of influence” giving the Reno Planning Commission jurisdiction. Reno is moving to annex the development.

REFERENCE

Contact the Reno City Council with your concerns by e-mail or voice-mail here. Mayor Schieve and Councilmembers Weber and Duerr are running for re-election.

Contact the Washoe County Commissioners by e-mail or voice-mail here. County commissioners Lucey and Herman are up for re-election in November

Higher Density Zoning Proposal Denied

The Washoe County Planning Commission unanimously denied the proposal from the Washoe County Planning Department to include a new higher-density zoning category in the Washoe County Master Plan for the Southwest Area Plan (WMPA22-0004) on Tuesday, March 1. Given that the planning department operates under the supervision of the county commissioners, it is likely that the county commissioners favor this change.

There were 15 residents in attendance (or remote) who expressed the following concerns during public comment. In addition, there were 27 e-mails sent to the commissioners in opposition.

  • The proposal does not include a consideration of the impact of the zoning change on traffic, schools, public safety, and sewer services. It does not consider the impact on the character of the neighborhoods.
  • This proposed change is to favor a specific development project at the top of Zolezzi Rd on a property donated to the Reno Christian Fellowship (12.55 acres).
  • Homeowners intentionally bought homes in areas with low-density zoning. The county should not change the zoning requirements after the residents have invested there.
  • Concern that the area will run out of water with increased density.
  • Schools will not be able to handle higher population densities.
  • The Master Plan is a strategic document and should not be changed without compelling justification.
  • Allowing this change would set a precedent that such a change could be incorporated in other parts of the county.
  • The existing area plan indicates that the area is mature and largely developed. The emphasis should be on maintaining the existing communities rather than allowing additional growth.
  • No study has been done that indicates this zoning change is needed.
  • There are many undeveloped properties that allow for growth with no zoning change.
  • Any changes should be incorporated in the new “Envision Washoe 2040” master plan.

Julie Olander made a presentation from the staff describing the change.

Planning Commissioner questions and discussion

  • Patricia Phillips: “Is there some kind of emergency that makes this necessary?” Olander “This did come out of the discussion of the Christian Fellowship Property request. That is what is motivating this change at this time.” Trevor Lloyd (planner) “This is a correction to the area plan to include LDS-2 that was not available at the time the Southwest Area Plan was written, but would have been included if it had been available.” Phillips would like to know where the lots are located that would be affected by this zoning change. She is concerned that higher density zoning near the Reno boundary could encourage Reno to extend their sphere-of-influence or to consider annexation. Olander “This is not a blanket permission. Any property to be rezoned would come before the Planning Commission for approval.” Phillips “Changing the density changes the character of the area. It sets a precedent. It does not conform to the existing plan.” “I’ve been on CAB’s and the Planning Commission since 2006, and I’ve seen a growing mistrust on the part of the public about what is pushed down their throats.”
  • Kate Nelson expressed concern that with the policy change you can get one parcel at a time applying for a zoning change. Such changes would not require a study of the road and school impacts. Olander countered that any zoning change still requires review and approval and that the impacts would be considered even if the changes were piecemeal. Olander went on to say that Medium Density Suburban zoning (3 homes per acre) is already available in the area. Nelson said that the wildfire evacuation last year left all the major roads completely choked indicating that they were already inadequate with the existing zoning.
  • Michael Flick asked why the minimum lot size for LDS-2 is 17,500 sqft when a half an acre is over 21,000 sqft. Lloyd answered that the density and lot sizes are not quite the same thing. The minimum lot size allows for some variation in lot sizes where some lots in a development will be slightly over the nominal size and some will be slightly under. The density defines the average lot size for the development.
  • Sarah Chvilicek “The staff report indicates that this is an amendment. It is not just a policy change.” “The change would affect the character.” Lloyd responded that the area plans were never intended to become regulatory documents at a detail level. Chvilicek is concerned that such zoning changes erode public trust in the process.
  • Larry Chesney “Because we have an ongoing revision of the master plan, I see no urgency here to move on this tonight. I can’t support it at all. I can’t make four of the findings. Something just isn’t right with this in my mind.” “Contrary to Lloyd’s statement about the area plans being too regulatory, I find that if it wasn’t for the area plans, all hell would break loose in this county worse than it has already from the development standpoint.”
  • Francine Donshick “I have some uncomfortable feelings about this myself.”
  • Larry Peyton “I don’t see the point of this since a zoning change would require approval of the Planning Commission anyway. They could apply now for a Special Use Permit to achieve the same result.” Lloyd said this was incorrect: an applicant could only apply for LDS (1 per acre) or MDS (3 per acre).

Commissioner Chesney moved to deny the master plan amendment. The vote was unanimous.

The following commissioners couldn’t make the following findings.

  • Chesney; 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Nelson; 1, 3, 4, 5
  • Chvilicek; 1, 3, 4, 5
  • Donshick; 1, 3, 4, 5
  • Nelson; 1, 3, 4, 5
  • Peyton; 2, 4, 5
  • Phillips; 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Flick; 1, 2, 4

Washoe County Planning Commission Findings

  • #1 Consistency with the Master Plan
  • #2 Compatible land uses
  • #3 Response to changing conditions
  • #4 Availability of facilities
  • #5 Desired pattern of growth

The meeting highlighted an absence of trust. This was referenced repeatedly by the commissioners. The residents don’t trust the county process to protect the character of their neighborhoods and maintain their quality of life. It was evident from the meeting that there was also a lack of trust between the planning commissioners and the planning staff members.

This decision by the planning commission is subject to appeal. Given that no applicant (eg developer) requested this change, it is not clear who might appeal it. Can the planning department appeal a planning commission decision regarding a policy change?

Agenda

News-4

Planning Commission Staff Report

Higher Density Zoning at Planning Comm. 3/1

The Washoe County Planning Commission will consider amending the zoning categories in the unincorporated county master plan to include a category for 2 homes per acre (LDS-2). Currently, 1-home-per-acre is the highest density zoning allowed for master plan amendments. This change favors developers for whom higher densities allow for greater profit. This runs counter to the original intent of the county’s area plans that specify a rural or pastoral setting outside the City of Reno where higher housing densities are expected. Many residents of the unincorporated county live there specifically because they don’t want the urban-density development. The proposal is originating from the Washoe County Planning Department under the direction of the Board of County Commissioners.

Residents can attend the meeting on Tuesday, 3/1/2022 at 6:00 PM via Zoom with this LINK.

Residents can also contact any of the planning commissioners to let them know their opinions. Comments will be tallied as “for” or “against”. Some of them may be read in the meeting. You are not limited to contacting only the planning commissioner for your district.

Planning Commission Meeting Agenda 3/1/2022

Zoning Proposal for LDS-2

Rancho IV Denied by Planning Comm.

The Rancho IV development was denied by the Reno Planning Commission on November 3, 2021. The site is north of Rancho San Rafael Park and west of Parr Blvd. in northern Reno. The developer wants to build 142 homes on the 28 acres. The development will be predominantly duplexes with some triple and quad units. No zoning amendment was requested.

Staff Presentation by Brooke Oswald

  • He concluded that the development meets all the code requirements and the staff recommends approval.

Developer Presentation by John Krmpotic

  • The key issue of concern to area residents is public access for recreation.
  • Residents are concerned about the expected loss of trees. The plan is to remove 19 mature trees and replace them with 38 new trees.
  • This project is a continuation following Rancho I, II, and III developments nearby.
  • Four parking spots will be provided at the trailhead for public use.

Public Comment contributions (The Planning Commission received 70 e-mails in opposition and several voice-mail messages)

  • Wildlife and ecological impacts would be significant. This property is a wildlife corridor.
  • The developer tree count is not representative. One resident counted 143 Jefferson Pine trees.
  • The views and vistas will be spoiled with this design. It does not meet the “viewshed” standards. It includes building on the ridgelines.
  • The Rancho-IV design violates that Reno master plan and can’t be approved as such.
  • There is no plan to accommodate wetlands on the property.
  • This is an area high in Radon which will likely be increased with the cuts and grading.
  • Traffic is already problematic accessing Virginia Street.
  • Construction litter will despoil the site and the wetlands. Some of the slopes are too steep to recover the litter.
  • Stolz Road is the main access road and it is so congested that two cars can’t pass. A fire engine couldn’t get through.
  • Hoge Road is steep and is dangerous when it gets icy.
  • Noise echoes at this site. The construction will present a problem for people who work from home.

The meeting was characterized by animosity from the residents toward the commissioners. Reno residents have watched one destructive, irresponsible development after another get approved. Trust in local officials to do the right thing is largely history.

  • One resident speaking in opposition to the development asked that his 3-minute time be extended by 30 seconds. This was denied by the chairman (Velto). There was some disturbance in the audience following the denial.
  • Velto was challenged by the next speaker to confirm with the city attorney about extending a comment time.
  • One resident made the remark “You’ve probably already made up your mind.”
  • There was clapping after each speaker despite admonishment by the commission clerk for order.
  • There were several remarks from the audience that were not made during public comment and were out of order. One resident was asked to leave.

Planning Commissioner Discussion

  • Commissioner Gower asked why there was no traffic study conducted for this development. Oswald replied that the planning staff had reviewed the proposal and concluded that no traffic study was required because the impact would not change the existing “levels of service” (aka LOS).
  • Commissioner Gower engaged with the audience and made his case that his decision needs to follow the guidelines and master plan. He is sympathetic to residents who want to preserve the character of their neighborhoods. His decision needs to be based on the formal findings.
  • Commissioner Munoz said that the presumption of bad faith on the part of the residents toward the commission was insulting to him. This project is in his ward.
  • The commissioners individually recognized the residents present for making the effort to come to the meeting to express their concerns.
  • Commissioner Johnson recognized that the master plan and other zoning and policies are sometimes in conflict or lead to ambiguous conclusions so that his role is to try to decide which regulation is most important when making a decision. The master plan is written to support growth and additional housing.
  • Commissioner Johnson has trouble making the first finding of the benefit of 142 more homes as opposed to preserving a distinct landscape. Finding #1 concerns “Consistency with the Reno Master Plan”. He is concerned that there are major cuts and fills in order to build the maximum number of homes allowed. Rancho IV is higher on the hillside and much more prominent than the earlier phases I-III.

VOTES: Gower, Velto, and Drakulich “YES”; Johnson and Munoz “NO”; Taylor and Villaneuve were absent. Approval requires four “YES” votes, so the project was not approved.

Ascente and Silver Hills Before BCC

Ascente

A request by Ascente developers to extend their final-map deadline and a request by Silver Hills to approve their tentative map both came before the Washoe Board of County Commissioners 8/24/21.

Lucey abstained due to his relationship with the developer and left the room.

Trevor Lloyd made a presentation.

Hartung made the point that the developer had 4 years to complete the final map. Only 1-1/2 was during the pandemic. He asked the rhetorical question “Why do we even have timelines? I’m vexed. It makes no sense to me why we’re granting an extension when they’ve had 4 years to do this.”

Michael Barnes (developer) claimed that there were many disruptive factors that delayed their plans including the denial of “jumbo loans”, he wanted to use the “save the map with 5 units” process. Key employees have left (hydrologist, landscaping) and they struggled to find engineers to put together the design of the 5 lots. “Our intention is to develop the property out in conjunction with Toll Brothers. Toll Brothers has informed the commissioners by e-mail (below) that they intend to be the partners and build the project out. They fully intend to come forward with final maps for all of the development. Our goal is to come through with Toll Brothers and put together a community. Even county staff has had trouble making time to meet with us due to COVID.”

Toll e-mail:

2021-08-24 Collinsworth Email

Hartung “Is this the first extension for this project or was there an earlier administrative extension?” Lloyd “This is the only extension at this time.”

Hartung “Mr. Barnes, this is not an entry level project that fills a need for affordable housing.” Barnes “That is correct. Toll Brothers is America’s #1 luxury home builder. We’re proud of that. These homes will range from $700k to above $1M.”

Hartung “Why isn’t Tolles Brothers here today giving us their word that this project is moving forward?” Barnes “I apologize that they couldn’t attend, but they did send an e-mail outlining their support for the project.”

Alexis Hill eagerly moved to grant the extension. The proposed agreement will get a second reading on September 28, 2021. There was no vote. [She had received $35,900 in campaign contributions from development interest for the 2020 election; 24% of all contributions.]

There was one e-mail in opposition. No one spoke in opposition.

Silver Hills

Lucey returned to the dais.

The issue is the appeal by the developer of the Washoe Planning Commission decision to deny the tentative map for the Silver Hills development.

Garrett Gordon (Lewis and Roca) presented the Lifestyle Homes appeal.

  • The tentative map is for 358 single family homes (Village #1) of the 1,872 homes that are included in the zoning amendment. It is 66 acres. This tentative map includes homes on 5,000 sqft lots.
  • The tentative map includes the “backbone trail map” as required in their zoning amendment.
  • This tentative map includes higher density development that is balanced by open space so as not to exceed an average of 3 units per acre.
  • Gordon claimed that the tentative map complied with the area plan (this has no basis in fact).
  • Gordon offered a couple of concessions. The houses would be wired “solar ready, electric car ready, and ready for battery hookup”. Further they are offering undefined “innovative amenities” for the common space.

The viewer can’t help but be struck by the very high density of this tentative map. It looks urban in a area zoned for Suburban Rural; 1 home per acre. The effect of their zoning amendment is dramatic.

Roger Pelham from the county planning staff made a presentation.

  • The tentative map is consistent with the area plan (not credible).
  • The designs are supposed to incorporate passive solar design. This requirement has not been met.
  • Staff concluded that the developer met all the findings for approval.
  • This is only a small fraction of the greater plan and does not show how the broader conditions will be met.

Public Comment consisted of one speaker who made the following points.

  • There are only two routes into and out of the neighborhood. A recent evacuation of the area was problematic without these new homes.
  • This project will completely destroy the rural nature of the North Valleys. It is not compatible with the rural nature of the North Valleys.
  • Red Rock Road will need to be widened to 4 lanes.
  • “The Lissner family, Lifestyle homes under different iterations, Robert Lissner, Elaine Lissner, Peter, Cassadee, have collectively bestowed a couple of hundred thousand dollars in buying the influence of the Washoe County Commission and the city councils.”

Board Discussion

Commissioner Jeanne Herman referred to a recent case where a developer sued a private person for speaking against their development causing a lot of grief for that person. She has had a number of her constituents contact her that want to speak in opposition to this project, but they are afraid that they may be sued as well. “You’re not getting the fairest meeting here. One public comment is not representative.” She also expressed concern for the lack of improvement at the Reno-Stead Wastewater Reclamation Facility limiting its ability to handle increased wastewater.

Commissioner Vaughan Hartung claimed that this was an approved use of this property. He addressed the two findings that the Planning Commission decided were not met. One was “plan consistency” and the other was “design or improvement”. He is concerned that the long straight streets will lead to speeding rather than incorporating “traffic calming” features. The county will need to come back at some time and fix this deficiency. The developer is promoting an “agrihood”. Hartung would like to see such gardens distributed around the project. There is no such feature in this first tentative map. Hartung used a term “Mr. Potato Head design”, but he did not define it clearly. Duane Smith (County Engineer) claimed that there is a rigorous process between the approval of the tentative map and the final map. “These types of things will have to be met or the final map will not be approved.” Hartung expressed frustration that these changes are not available for public review. “This is not an innovative design.” He said the parks are too small. “This is not what you told me. What are you going to change with this to make this a better neighborhood?” Gordon claimed that this village conforms to the project “handbook” and that the large 10-acre park will be built by the 500th home. Gordon has offered additional undefined “amenities” and will be happy to work with Hartung to make improvements. Hartung is not happy that the developer appears to be doing the minimum to meet their zoning. Gordon was adamant that the plan did more than meet the minimum requirements. Hartung is not concerned about water: he expects that there will be more than enough available from Honey Lake through the Vidler pipeline.

Commissioner Alexis Hill said that she did not understand the reasons for the denial of the tentative map by the planning commission. Pelham replied that there were area plan policies that were not adequately addressed by this application. Also, the zoning amendment was approved with the condition that multiple housing types were required. This piece only includes the small-lot single-family homes. There was also a condition to include some passive solar elements which are not present in this plan. The street and lot layout does not look like the plan presented for the zoning amendment proposal. Hill went ahead to repeat most of Gordon’s points saying that she doesn’t have a problem with it.

Hartung went on to praise “curb and gutter and sidewalk” features in this development citing the nuisance with maintaining the open ditches used for drainage in rural areas. He went on to praise the developer’s plan to retain water on the property in a 1:1.5 ratio of the volume of the soil brought in to the volume of soil removed.

Commissioner Kitty Jung supports curb and gutter construction and would like to consider requiring these features more broadly.

Commissioner Bob Lucey asked Mike Railey (developer engineer) about their plan to introduce traffic calming features to reduce speeding. Railey replied that such details would be worked out with staff for the final map. “What this is is nothing like what we had the initial discussion about back in October 2019. We felt compelled that this was something that was going to meet the nature of that community.” “What you’ve presented in the tentative map does not represent anything that we’d initially had this discussion about. This is frustrating to me and disappointing to me.” If the board approves this plan, these issues need to be addressed. Curb-and-gutter construction brings additional maintenance cost to the county. “I’m disappointed that we’re talking about a tentative map that doesn’t look anything like what we initially discussed.” He hopes that the developer has heard the comments and concerns with the board and will move forward effectively to implement changes.

Commissioner Hill moved to overturn the decision of the planning commission and approve the tentative map as requested by the developer. The commission voted to overturn the decision of the planning commission with Jung, Hill, Lucey, and Hartung voting in the affirmative. Commissioner Herman voted “no”.

The issue raised during public comment of the ethical compromise that the commissioners make by accepting the developer money was studiously ignored by the commissioners. There was no defense of the current practice nor any admission that it is problematic. An observer might conclude that the commission accepts that it is a corrupt body.

MEETING VIDEO (jump to item 16 for Ascente, item 17 for Silver Hills)

The War on Silver Knolls

The Silver Hills development is a development north and west of the existing Silver Knolls neighborhood. The plan changes the zoning for higher density and builds 1872 homes on 780 acres. It has the common problems of excess traffic, insufficient wildfire evacuation capacity, and school overcrowding. Beyond that, it will be served by the Reno-Stead Wastewater Reclamation Facility known to contribute to the flooding in Lemmon Valley.

  • The zoning amendment was denied unanimously by the North Valley’s Citizens Advisory Board.
  • The zoning amendment was denied unanimously by the Washoe County Planning Commission.
  • The Washoe Board of County Commissioners overturned the Planning Commission denial so that the project could go forward. Commissioners voting “yes” were Berkbigler, Hartung, Jung, and Lucey who all received campaign contributions from the developer: Lissner of Lifestyle Homes.


The Silver Knolls Community Organization (SKCO) filed a writ of mandamus challenging the decision by the County Commission (December 2019). The case was heard by Lynne Simons. Judge Simons ruled for the developer (June 2021).


This case was different. Lissner/Lifestyle then sued the neighbors claiming it was a frivolous suit and seeking compensation for legal expenses. The judge ruled for the developer granting wide latitude. The developer was granted $78k in damages against the neighbors. So, the neighbors not only paid for their attorney, but had to pay the legal expenses of the developer. The judgement was much more than the SKCO had on hand and many times their annual budget. The neighbors sought a settlement to a cost they could afford. Lissner agreed to reduce the cost to $29k with the condition that the SKCO not oppose the tentative map when it comes before the Washoe Planning Commission. The condition does not apply to individuals representing themselves. The settlement was not public, but it was not confidential either.


This is an attempt by developers to intimidate residents from seeking equal protection in the courts and to gag the neighborhood organizations. It is an escalation in the war developers are waging against residents. Peter Lissner is Lifestyle Homes. Such underhanded and vindictive practices reveal the quality of his character and his scorn for the community. Correction: it was Bob Lissner that wanted the judgement for legal expenses against the SKCO not Peter Lissner.

Remember: there is more capacity for new home construction with existing zoning than will be needed for the next 20 years. The rezoning is simply for developer profits.

The Silver Hills tentative map will come before the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday 8/24. You can contact the commissioners to express your opinion of the Silver Hills tentative map.

Ascente Requests an Extension 8/24/21

On Tuesday, Barnes and the NNV1 partners will request an extension to the deadline to submit their final map for Ascente. The statute is that the developer has 4 years from the time of tentative map approval to submit the final map for the project. The Board of County Commissioners denied the appeal of the Planning Commission decision on August 8, 2017. The final map deadline was 8/9/2021. The developer submitted a final map for 5 of the 225 homes. This final map has nonconformances that preclude its approval. The developer is requesting a two-year extension to August 9, 2023. The way to skirt the legal deadline is to form a “Joint Development Agreement” with Washoe County to retroactively extend the deadline for the final map. This is the proposal before the County Commission. Readers may recall that District 2 Commissioner Lucey recused himself from the voting on the appeal by the neighbors due to his close ties to this developer.

The Ascente developer did not meet his legal obligations under Nevada law and is seeking a retroactive extension from the County Commission. Neighbors have a chance to express their opinion about this.

The Board of County Commissioners meeting will start at 10:00 AM on 8/24/21. The Ascente agreement is item 16 on the agenda. It is not clear how early they will address this item. You can send comments to the commissioners and to the county clerk. The comment tallies and the comments themselves will become part of the record.

Commissioners:

Bob Lucey

Vaughan Hartung

Alexis Hill

Jeanne Herman

Kitty Jung (she has no official email)

County Clerk