Terrasante Rising

Approved at the end of the last real-estate boom in 2006, the Terrasante project (previously called Callamont) appears to have new life in it. It is a 395 acre property with a plan to build 210 homes located at the south end of the Callahan Road off of the Mount Rose Highway. Reliable sources say that the builder will be Toll Brothers. The county records still show that it is owned by Gateway LC that bought the property in 2009. The addition of over 200 homes will have an impact on the residents along Callahan Road.

Workers are now marking the routes for sewer and utility service: they told a neighbor that the Toll Brothers would be building the development. This is an old plan: it’s a zombie project. It has had its deadline for “final map” submission extended many times by a county commission and planning department eager to support development. The deadline for the final map submission is intended to avoid this problem of a project that met the county requirements 15 years ago to be built now with no updated review. It also does not consider other development projects that have been approved in the area that will have cumulative impacts. Changes to the plan will require that the plan go back to the Washoe Planning Commission for review and approval, but some changes are allowed during the detail design of the final map. There is no requirement for public review or disclosure. The process happens within the planning department working with the developer.

Mount Rose Commercial Center Coming

The Reno Planning Commission will consider a plan to develop the property across the Mount Rose Highway ( Rt.431) from the Summit Mall on April 21, 2021. The meeting starts at 6:00 PM. This property is on the south side of 431 next to the Ormat geothermal power plant and the Waste Management transfer station. It is an 88-acre property made up of several parcels. This property is considered part of the “Reno Sphere of Influence”, so the development decisions will be through the Reno Planning Commission and the Reno City Council. It is an exception to the general rule that the city’s entitlement ends at 431.

The developer, Pannatoni, intends to sell parcels that others will build on “to suit” or “to spec”. The plan is to include neighborhood commercial (like dry cleaners), restaurants, and some residential. Some parcels will include 24-hour businesses. These will be located closest to the 431/Virginia St. (Old 395) intersection. There is no plan to build a casino: some businesses my install slot machines. One major investor is adamant about not building a casino. There is no position on Marijuana business: that would require a special permit from the city in any case.

Councilmember Duerr hosted a remote meeting for this presentation with Andy Durling of Wood Rogers on 3/29/21. Several questions and concerns were raised.

  • Traffic: there is no plan to add another traffic light. The main entrance will be opposite the Summit Mall utilizing Herz Drive. There will be another entrance uphill on 431 which will be right-in and right-out only (like Edmonton). There will also be two entrances from Old 395. One will be right-in and right-out only. The second will be right-in and right-out and left-in with no signal. The concern is that we will see what is happening at Edmonton where some motorists make a dangerous, illegal left turn to go up the hill. The car speeds exceed 50mph: misjudgments are deadly.
  • Stormwater Drainage: the property will produce excess drainage due to the soil compaction and the paving. The Steamboat Ditch will be retained and improved with features to capture silt. The developer claims that the project will incorporate features to mitigate the runoff so that there is no net increase after the development is complete. Residents may remember that in Lemmon Valley roughly half the storm-water retention features were not built to code.
  • Billboards: two billboards presently on the property would be removed. The sign companies may relocate them elsewhere in Reno. It is not known what signage the new development would have.
  • Wildlife: the developer will get a survey completed and approved by NDOW. There is concern about the Steamboat Buckwheat habitat. The developer plans to leave this area undisturbed. There is also concern that 99% of the Monarch Butterfly habitat in the West has been destroyed.

See the developer’s presentation for additional detail.

See recorded meeting notes.

Santerra Development (Quilici) Approved

The Reno City Council heard appeals on March 24 from both the neighbors and the developer on the Planning Commission’s decisions on the Santerra project (12/16/20). The neighbors (represented by Argyris) were appealing the approval of the Master Plan amendment and zoning change. The developer (Toll Brothers) was appealing the denial of the tentative map and the Special Use Permits (SUP). This is a project to put 1,225 homes on 1,165 acres on the south side of I-80 in Verdi.

Public Comment: (52 e-mails received in opposition, 10 expressing concern, 1 in support; in addition, 4 voicemail messages were received in opposition)

  • The tentative map does not comply with the Mortensen-Garson Overlay District (MGOD) requirements regarding community planning, environmental and safety issues.
  • There is a lack of funding for public safety and infrastructure. This specifically refers to the staffing of fire station #19. This was a key consideration in the denial of the Mortensen Ranch project.
  • This plan includes hundreds of homes to be built in an area identified in the MGOD as Open Space.
  • This plan includes building on ridgelines that are protected in the MGOD. This is especially true for the southwest ridge.
  • The current plan is inadequate for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) to provide water service to these homes.
  • Traffic is not adequately addressed especially in terms of the freeway access to I-80. The highway infrastructure is inadequate for residential, fire, and public safety traffic.
  • Wildfire hazard is not adequately addressed in this plan. A primary concern is the lack of secondary access for fire fighters arriving and residents evacuating.
  • NDOW has indicated that this development would wipe out a deer herd. This is an area where deer seek shelter during a storm.

Reno planning staff gave a presentation and made the following points.

  • Make part of the existing Industrial zoned area into Residential and a part into Open Space.
  • Plan to move the existing Commercial zoned area to the northeast corner near the entry.
  • The new plan includes a Regional Park in an area that had been zoned Industrial.
  • A site is identified for a fire station and there is a fee of $1,600 per house that will go to a fire-station fund.
  • Homes will need to have fire sprinklers. The Reno Fire Department (RFD) can call on the Truckee Meadows Fire Department (TMFD) to respond to a fire here under the Automatic Aid agreement. TMFD has Station 40 near Somersett. The RFD estimates a 14-minute response time from their closest station.
  • Santerra is not large enough to justify a Planned Unit Development specification.

Argyris argued that she is aggrieved by the new development due to her concern for the community welfare, wildlife, and traffic and thus has standing. She went on to describe the requirement for cooperative planning indicated in the MGOD handbook. Two of the zoning changes run afoul of this requirement. Councilmember Reese made the point that the Reno requirements for standing are ambiguous. He moved that Argyris be granted standing. This was approved with a unanimous vote. She objects to two of the zoning changes. She showed documentation that Reno would provide the public safety services at the time of annexation. These services are not now available from Reno. The Drakulich ruling makes the expired handbook the controlling document: this plan is not compliant with the handbook. Argyris gave a presentation.

Angela Fuss (Reno Planning Manager) said the plan will go to the Truckee Regional Planning Authority (TMRPA) for review. there is no process of cooperative planning like what existed 20 years ago when the MGOD was formed.

The developer gave a presentation and made the following points.

  • The revised plan removes all the industrial zoning which is redefined as residential, open space, or used for the new school.
  • Village-12 will reduce the number of homes from 248 to 65.
  • The new design better protects viewsheds, drainage ways, and ridgelines.
  • There is now a right of way for the required secondary access. It will be complete before any residents move in.
  • Traffic levels will not exceed Level-of-Service (LOS) “B” after the development is complete.
  • Improvements will be made to three intersections near the Boomtown on-ramp.
  • There will be an opportunity for public review and comment on their final map.

Council discussion:

Brekhus: the zoning change needs to include an amendment to the MGOD. These need to happen simultaneously before the tentative map can be approved. She is also concerned about both the capacity and structural integrity of the Garson Rd. overpass. It was an NDOT priority project, but there has been no plan to improve it. Amanda Callegeri (NDOT) replied that the overpass is sound and has adequate capacity for the traffic volume indicated in the traffic report. It is not known when funding will be available to improve the overpass.

Duerr: the consideration of issues like funding the new school and the new fire station seems piecemeal while the MGOD documents suggest a comprehensive approach. She is concerned about the amount of grading planned for steep slopes. She is concerned about the amount of train traffic and the hazard that poses to nearby homes.

Reese: after the Argyris presentation, Reese pressed the City Attorney who indicated that the process used for the zone change was acceptable. Reese is also concerned that there be improvements to the road used for secondary access to the development.

Jardon: she likes the changes that have been made to the project since it was reviewed by the Planning Commission. She didn’t see any part of the project that addresses affordable housing. Mike Pagni (developer attorney) said the developer was willing to provide a $1,000 contribution per house toward the City’s affordable housing fund.

The votes:

Jardon moved to approve the Master Plan amendment. The motion was approved 5-2 with Brekhus and Duerr opposed. Brekhus does not believe the zoning change is compliant with Reno code, while Duerr believes the project will have a negative impact on traffic.

Jardon moved to approve the zoning changes. Brekhus is opposed since the required changes to the MGOD have not been incorporated. Duerr is opposed because it is not clear how the new fire station will be funded. She is also concerned about the impact to the rural community (Verdi). The motion was approved 5-2 with Brekhus and Duerr opposed.

Jardon moved to approve the tentative map and SUP’s with changes resolved during the meeting. Duerr has many issues with the tentative map especially the SUP for mass grading which is restricted in the MGOD. Brekhus thinks the MGOD requirements are being cast aside with this approach. She thinks the storm water drainage is not adequately addressed. The motion was approved 5-2 with Brekhus and Duerr opposed.


Meeting VIDEO (starts at 5:09)

Meeting AGENDA (Item I-1)

Ascente Geology Concerns

The Steamboat Hills is a feature of hot, unstable rock riven with earthquake faults. It is a hostile place to build; slow progress, expensive, with a lot of noise and dust. Extra care must be taken to locate home sites away from hazards, and construction must adapt to the largely unstable rock formations.

Geological considerations and concerns that apply to Ascente:

  • Geothermal activity may indicate instability in the rock structure from the lava mantle below.
  • Earthquake faults have been identified in the area which have not been adequately mapped on the Ascente property.
  • Geomorphology (topography) that will require re-shaping for the construction of roads and the preparation of home lots.
  • Extremely hard Andesite and Rhyolite that comprise the Steamboat Hills. Blasting will be required. It is inherently risky especially with some of the toxic elements on the surface that could become airborne. Blasting may also cause unintended movement in the unstable formations.

There are some roughly level lots at the end of Fawn Lane and on Patti Lane that could likely avoid the problems identified, but these are likely adjacent to the fault system identified along the base of the Steamboat Hills (west side). If construction proceeds up the hillside, the problems of building on this terrain will be ever more critical.

See Kristin’s excellent page describing the geology issues for Ascente in detail.

See Kristin’s letter to the county planning department and county engineer about the apparent problems with the Lumos geo-tech study.

Ascente 2021

The business plan for the Ascente development has gone through several iterations to reach today’s version.


Partners Michael Barnes and Paul Tanguay purchase 632 acres on the western slope of the Steamboat Hills off the Mount Rose Highway for $7.2M. The company listed was Symbio. There was an earlier development plan for the property called Matera Ridge. The tentative map application for Ascente was submitted to Washoe County on September 15, 2015 with an updated version submitted April 17, 2017.


Working with Lumos (engineering firm), the developers produced a development plan for 225 homes in four villages on 225 acres for Phase-I. The long term plan was to add a Phase-II going over the ridge with a road leading to the Mount Rose Highway for an additional 400 homes. The Washoe County Planning Commission approved the Phase-I plan 6/6/17. The neighbors appealed and made a presentation to the Board of County Commissioners on 8/8/17. With a sympathetic county commission, the Phase-I project was approved replete with a laughable traffic report and many issues left open. Apparently, the original plan was for the developers to bring in the utilities and then sell individual lots to builders. There was a later version of the plan which was to sell entire villages to large home builders. According to the word on the street, large home builders were contacted to see if they would buy a village with an approved tentative map. Apparently, there were no takers. Symbio went on to seek smaller home builders, but there were apparently no takers among them either.


Symbio and NNV1 are listed as the property owners with principals Tanguay and Barnes. Dixon Commercial Realty listed the project (12/19) at $20.05M.

Sale prices were …

  • Sierra Village $4.2M
  • Tioga Village $5.35M
  • Donner Village $7.95M
  • Whitney Village $2.55M

Dickson Brochure

There’s no news: there were apparently no takers. It’s not clear why the listing is no longer on Dixon. It may be that their contract expired and was not renewed.


Bryan Drakulich is featuring the property and looking for investors. The property was listed for sale at $14.5M through Century 21. This includes 3 of the original 4 villages (208 homes, 185 acres). The Whitney Village (southern most) is not included. There has been little work done on the property for the last several years.

Drakulich brochure


The area is experiencing a boom in home demand and construction. With the basin floors mostly developed, developers are building on the surrounding slopes all over the Truckee Meadows. This is more risky and expensive, but apparently more profitable than building the higher density infill needed to meet the area’s housing needs.

There are special problems building in the Steamboat Hills not far from the geothermal power plant. The hills were named after the steam plumes that came from deep fissures in the rock. There is very little soil on top of the Andesite rock which is quite hard. The area is riven with earthquake faults. Many of the lots may not be buildable due to the fault locations. Extensive blasting and grading will be needed for the roads and the lots. The utility trenches will be problematic too. Rock will need to be removed while soil will need to be brought in.

Drakulich claims “Includes site geotechnical investigation suitable for final map application.” This is highly dubious. Ascente’s geotechnical investigation of the fault-riven area appears to have been inadequate to the point of being unprofessional. A report to this effect was sent to engineers in the county planning department in December of 2017. There has been no reply.

Mortensen Ranch Project Denied … Again

Late Wednesday the Reno City Council voted to deny the Mortensen Ranch development for the second time. This is a large development of 676 homes on 955 acres in Verdi on the west side of the Somersett development. The development had been considered and denied by the city before (1/26/2020). Following the earlier denial, the developer went to court with a petition for judicial review. This is a process in which the judge reviews documents describing the city’s decision with the petitioner claiming that the city acted “in an arbitrary and capricious” manner. As a rule, the courts are loathe to rule against the city or county. In this case, the Judge Kathleen Drakulich ruled in favor of the petitioner and ordered the city to reconsider the project specifically in terms of the Mortensen-Garson Overlay District (MGOD). Technically, the court vacated the city council’s decision to uphold the decision by the Reno Planning Commission to deny the project. The city did reconsider and Wednesday voted to deny the project again by a vote of 6-1.

It should be noted that the Drakulich family owns a large-scale development business. Judge Drakulich is the aunt of prominent developer J D Drakulich who ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2020. Her statement that the record “demonstrates both the Planning Commission’s and City Council’s animosity toward the MGOD” indicates a bias in her judgement. Given the family interest in promoting development, one might imagine that Judge Drakulich would have recused herself from this case.

Public Comment Voicemail ( In addition, there was one letter of support received along with 56 letters in opposition and 15 letters of concern)

  • The new development is not compliant with the MGOD guidelines and the associated handbook. in that it does not consider the cumulative effects of recent changes to the plan since the earlier review.
  • Fifteen of the new homes will be built on a ridgeline in violation of the MGOD guidelines.
  • Easements for emergency exit routes have not been secured.
  • Some of the development will be in areas identified as open space (“green areas”) in the City of Reno Community Development Map.
  • Native American artifacts are likely to be disturbed by this development.
  • Bike and OHV trails should be maintained where possible and trail access should be part of the development plan.

City Attorney, Karl Hall gave a summary and made the point that the case will go back to Judge Drakulich whatever the city decides.

Bill McKean (city attorney) and Angela Fuss (Planning Manager) gave a presentation to the council.

  • The “remand” order is not really the end of the legal process.
  • The MGOD overlay supersedes the regular city zoning requirements in cases where they diverge.
  • The MGOD specifies certain ridgelines that can have only limited grading or building.
  • The MGOD specifies limited development on hillsides, but does not prohibit it.
  • The MGOD requires a plan for parks and trails on the property.
  • The developer proposed to reduce the number of homes to 632 removing many of the homes that were on ridgelines.
  • The developer will add an emergency evacuation route on the north (uphill) end of the property that goes through The Cliffs development.

Fred Altmann gave a presentation on the behalf of the developer. He made the following points.

  • He asserts that the developer met with many people over the last year and made many concessions and changes.
  • The property will be developed in 8 phases for different geographical clusters he calls pods.
  • He would like to work with 5 or 6 area builders to get the entire project built within 5 years.

The city originally denied the developer’s appeal because it would require a master plan amendment or zoning change which was not included. This is required because the zoning shown in the MGOD is not the same as what the developer is proposing. Also, the development plan was found not in compliance with Nevada statutes.

Council Discussion

Councilmember Jardon asked staff about the easements for an evacuation route. Fuss replied that this should be included in the conditions for approval of the final map.

Councilmember Reese asked about the definitions of prominent ridgelines and rock outcroppings in the MGOD. Fuss replied that they are not very clearly defined. Reese is concerned about 20 lots situated on some of the steeper slopes. Fuss concurred that some of the lots are not compliant with the master plan since they are steeper than 30%. She said that the MGOD does not prohibit building in steep areas.

Councilmember Duerr noted that the MGOD document makes multiple references to community outreach and cooperative planning. There is also a reference to wildlife corridors. Fuss replied that the developer presented the plan at both the Neighborhood Advisory Board (NAB, Reno) and the Citizen’s Advisory Board (CAB, Washoe) which fulfilled the outreach requirement. Fuss went on to say that “cooperative planning” referred to the city and county cooperating on plans that lie on the city/county boundary. The cooperation is between the planning departments. The wildlife corridors typically follow the drainage ways. These were identified to the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) which were submitted with the project.

Councilmember Brekhus asked if the original Mortensen-Garson settlement had expired. Fuss said that it had. The MGOD is now in the development code.

Councilmember Jardon would like to see the buffer between these lots and the Somersett neighborhood increased to 150 feet. The developer said the buffer was at least 60 feet, but was not willing to increase it.

Duerr noticed that there were some home lots in areas that had been designated open space. Fuss replied that the newer plan takes into account natural features (“constraints”) at a detail level where construction could not occur. Duerr thinks that the construction should not occur outside the areas agreed to in the original MGOD. Fuss pointed out that the original MGOD handbook included “the exact zoning boundaries will be determined at the time of tentative map.” Duerr was not satisfied. She is also concerned about the homes to be built on slopes of 30% or more. While this is not prohibited, she thinks it is a bad principle. Duerr asked why the wildlife corridors are not already defined in the tentative map. Fuss said that these had been defined, but they have not yet received a mitigation plan from NDOW. Duerr is also concerned about traffic. Fuss replied that with each iteration of the plan, the developer has provided a traffic study that indicates that the traffic will not exceed service level “C”. Beyond this, Duerr is also concerned about freeway access (I-80) at this location. Fuss replied that no improvements for freeway access are included or required.

Brekhus is concerned about the local street network. One street that the development will use is not identified on the master plan. She asked about the right of way width for the streets that Reno will need to maintain. Fuss answered that the roads could be as narrow as 46′ but that these meet the city code requirements. Brekhus is concerned about the cost to the city to maintain roads in such rugged terrain. She asked how many feet of these roads would require retaining walls which would also need to be maintained. Fuss didn’t know.

Councilmember Reese asked what would happen if Native American remains or artifacts were found on the site. Fuss said that a plan had been submitted identifying where remains might be found. Since this is private property, there is no legal requirement regarding such remains. Reese asked Tray Palmer (Fire Marshall, RFD) if these homes will require sprinklers. Palmer said the nearest fire station would be number 11 at Sharlands and Mae Anne. Once the upper fire-access road is built, the Somersett station (#19) would be the closest. This is a little suspect since the Somersett station is presently only staffed for medical emergencies. The new homes would require sprinklers until the upper access road is completed.

Mayor Schieve is concerned about the fire fighting access. She asked Palmer if the topography is part of the fire-safety review of the project. Palmer said that topography is a big consideration. He said that the state will require a vegetation management plan since this is an instance of a wildland/urban interface. The maximum grade of a roadway for fire engine access is 10% or 12% for south facing slope.

Councilmember Weber asked if Jardon would share her secondary considerations that she didn’t raise since the lack of a 150′ setback makes the project unacceptable. Jardon said she’d like to see a “stakeholder” review of the final map to confirm that the conditions and expectations are reflected in it. The public trails should be recorded with easements. Jardon thinks all the homes should get sprinklers since the staffing of station 19 for fire fighting is still speculative. In addition, if historic remains or artifacts are discovered, all work in the area must cease. The emergency access road from the north would be a requirement before any homes are occupied.

Duerr pressed Fuss for more details about the wildlife corridors. In addition, Duerr expressed concern that Somersett is subject to strong earthquakes. She asked if there were any special standards for building in a seismically active area. Fuss said that lots need to be 50′ offset from an active fault, but that there are no special construction requirements. The developer will need to submit a formal geo-tech report with their final map.

Tom Gallagher (representing the developer) indicated that the developer would be willing to meet the 150′ setback from the Somersett property line if they could relocate the lots that were displaced by this change. The developers requested a 20 minute break to discuss the new conditions with the owner (Stan Lucas, San Diego). Afterwards, Altman summarized the owner’s positions.

  • Owner agrees to increase the setback from Somersett to 150′.
  • The developer will build the north emergency access road.
  • All the new homes will be built with sprinkler systems until station 19 is fully manned and can respond to fires. The developer is anxious about spending the additional $1600 per home if they can avoid it. Part of the issue is that Reno does not know when the city can afford to keep a fire engine company at station 19. Brekhus thinks the requirement for sprinklers in such a situation should not be an issue.
  • Open space areas will be deed restricted prior to submission of the final map.
  • HIking trails will be recorded with a public-access easement.
  • The developer will contribute $1,000 per home to the Reno Land Trust to be used for affordable housing projects.
  • The developer will comply with all state historical preservation laws regarding artifacts on remains discovered on the property (NRS 383.170).
  • The developer is hesitant to include stakeholders in the final-map review process hosted by city staff. Jardon pointed out that there have been projects in the past where the conditions negotiated for the tentative map were not reflected in the final map. This is a step the staff has added to projects in the Verdi area. Altman is concerned that this condition will spook potential lenders. He is adamant that citizens not be included in a meeting to review the final map. His position does raise questions as to the integrity of the final map they plan to provide. Fuss will write the condition to show that the staff will make the determination whether conditions are met.

Brekhus expressed concern over conditions that are being written “on the fly” during the meeting.

Closing Public Comment Voicemails (seven were received in opposition)

  • Since the MGOD handbook has expired, planning reverts to existing city planning and codes. The project is not consistent with the handbook and it requires cooperative planning.
  • Concern about the safety of powerlines that traverse the Mortensen Ranch property and terminate at the Somersett property.
  • Concern about contamination of the Truckee River watershed from development on the slopes.
  • Many of the ridgelines are not identified and should be protected.
  • Area wildlife is already under stress from development.
  • The development will build homes in area designated as open space.
  • The number of homes is too great given the characteristics of the property.

Jardon moved to approve the project (overturning the Planning Commission denial) with the new conditions defined during the meeting. Weber seconded the motion. Brekhus says the city is unable to provide adequate fire protection especially given the fast-paced fires that could occur on these slopes. She also sees problems related to neighborhood traffic and grading. She finds that the steep roads with retaining walls place an undue burden on the city for long-term maintenance. Duerr can’t support building on 30% slopes anywhere. Schieve is concerned about the wildfire hazard and the problem of emergency evacuation. The recent fire at Caughlin Ranch illustrated the risk of fire and the difficulty of evacuation. The motion failed with only Jardon and Weber supporting. Reese moved to affirm the decision of the Reno Planning Commission to deny the project. This was supported by all but Weber.

The review of this development project by the city council took 3 hours.


Staff Presentation:

Developer Presentation:

Court Ruling:

Staff Report:



The Canyons Development Approved

The Reno City Council voted to approve The Canyons development on Wednesday by a vote of 5-2. Voting “no” were councilmembers Brekhus and Duerr. The developer was seeking approval of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) application, a zoning amendment, and the tentative map.

Public Comment Voicemails (In addition, the city received 49 letters in opposition and 10 expressing concern)

  • Concern about the impact on the wild horses, native plants, and other wild life.
  • There has already been a lot of development there, and the traffic is already a problem. This new development will be terrible for neighbors in the Palisades neighborhood.
  • Opposition includes the next development: Canyon’s Edge.
  • Concern about protecting the eagles in the area.
  • The area is used by Native Americans for cultural events. There should be access provided.
  • A retired water engineer expressed concern that severe flooding can occur in the Damonte Canyon.
  • This development will disrupt a unique eco-system in the canyon.
  • Development in the area has already restricted storm water drainage: The Canyons development plan will put roads across the main drainage way as well as also smaller drainage ways.
  • There is increasing demand for open space available for recreation including in this area.
  • Taxpayers end up “on the hook” for flood damage from poor development plans.
  • This development will displace horses so that more of them will end up in the neighborhoods and roads.
  • The developer should provide a water tank at the northeast corner so that the horses no longer need to traverse the neighborhoods in search of water.

Jeff Borchardt (Reno planner) and Garett Gordon gave presentations on behalf of the developer. The 81-acre parcel was annexed by Reno in November 2016. The developer claims to have increased the open space, provided more public trails, and reduced the amount of grading. Gordon described revisions to the previous plan. He asserted that the developer cannot legally provide water for the wild horses. This is disputed by wild-horse activists. Jack Dolan joined the meeting saying that this property had been in his family 40 years and asking for approval.

Councilmember Duerr said that she had worked closely with the developer to gain a detailed understanding of the project and the exact location of its features. She made a presentation showing conditions that could be applied to the project to address the concerns of the public. She and Councilmember Reese requested the following conditions.

  • Leave at least 15 feet of setback from the Eagle Canyon drainage way to allow for an unimproved hiking trail on both the north and south banks. Property fences along this perimeter should be low and unobtrusive.
  • Remove one cul-de-sac and its 5 lots so as not to impinge on access to the canyon.
  • The developer should submit a study by NDOW indicating the impact on wildlife and eagles before doing any grading or blasting.
  • The HOA would be responsible to remove rocks from the roadway that fall naturally from the nearby slopes.
  • The developer should provide water for the horses to keep them from the roads and neighborhoods. There will only be a narrow corridor for horses to get by this development. It is better if they stay in the hills.

Council Discussion

  • Mayor Schieve thinks it’s vital to develop a wildlife plan for the area. She is extremely concerned with the many new projects coming in that will impact area wildlife. She will not vote to approve new projects until there is a wildlife plan in place. This is a message for city staff and for projects after The Canyons. She is very concerned about the plight of the wild horses.
  • Duerr would like to see new regulations covering “special places” such as hillsides, canyons, and floodplains since development is expanding into these areas.
  • Brekhus asked if the Master Plan shows the extension of the road through the Palisades up into another development. Stockham replied that the Master Plan would not include this level of detail, but that it is included in the land-use plan.
  • Duerr showed a short video of storm water runoff in the canyon and reiterated her request for the 15′ setback from the drainage way rim.
  • Councilmember Jardon was not confident that TMWA would or could provide water for a tank for the horses.
  • Brekhus asked staff about the hydrology report. Did the report confirm that the downstream neighborhoods of Palisades and Damonte Ranch could handle the storm water runoff? Borchardt said that code required that the downstream flows be considered, although he didn’t know the detail.
  • Brekhus asked about width of the road right-of-way. Borchardt looked it up; 42′. She wants to know the detail since the Reno Public Works department will be responsible for maintaining this road. Borchardt answered that the HOA will be responsible to maintain the embankments (retaining walls). He answered that the rip-wrap (bound rock structures) maintained by the HOA would be vital for the integrity of the road (maintained by the city).
  • Brekhus asked about the fire response. Did the staff have a time range of response times that included the last house on the new road? Borchardt replied that the response time to the first house would be 5 minutes. For houses that are beyond the 6-minute standard, they would require fire-protection sprinklers.
  • Brekhus asked about the minimum lot size. The smallest lots for the duet homes (half a duplex) would be 1500 square feet. So, the area previously zoned for 15,000 square-foot minimum lot size will have a number of homes with 1/10 that lot size. This is why the developer is requesting a PUD which will supersede the existing zoning.
  • Councilmember Weber asked if the developer will accept the conditions proposed by Duerr and Councilmember Reese. Gordon replied that they would agree to the 15′ setback on both sides of the drainage way with a trail on the north side. They did not agree to delete the one cul-de-sac, or to provide water for the wild horses.
  • Weber pressed the point and asked if the five lots could be moved somewhere else in the PUD. Gordon replied that these lots could not be moved somewhere else without an increase in the grading needed.
  • Reese asked Gordon to confirm that the developer did not agree to the trail on the south side of the drainage way. Gordon confirmed.
  • Reese asked Gordon to confirm that the developer will consult various authorities about the impact of the development on wildlife especially the eagles. Gordon confirmed that the developer would do so.
  • Schieve said there were misleading maps “in circulation”. One showed homes built in the drainage way. She also asked if the developer would provide educational signs discouraging the public from feeding the horses. Gordon says they will install 2 signs at a minimum.
  • Weber does not support Schieve’s demand for a comprehensive wildlife plan. She says there are laws in effect, and that we “can’t always do what we want”. She also promoted private property rights with the implication that owners should have freedom to do what they want.
  • Brekhus said that the storm water runoff will flow into the Damonte Ranch neighborhood which pays an assessment to maintain the drainage way downstream. Will the new homes become part of that district and also pay an assessment? Arlo Stockham (staff) said that the developer is responsible to put in detention basins to limit runoff caused by development. Such basins do not appear on the developer’s maps.
  • Duerr asked if the developer could remove 3 of the 5 problem lots and align the fence to the drainage way. She also asked what were the developer’s plans for the south rim of the drainage way since both rims must be protected to protect the drainage way. Gordon replied that the south rim will have the 15′ setback but not the additional width for a foot path. Gordon said the developer will not eliminate the 3 lots.

Duerr moved to make the conditions she and Reese proposed a requirement in the PUD. Reese seconded. Brekhus thinks that the PUD proposal is not in conformity with the Master Plan in terms of the road connections and the small lots. She also thinks the development will be a financial burden in terms of road maintenance and storm water runoff. Weber said she will not support putting additional conditions on the developer. Only Reese and Duerr supported the motion.

Reese moved to approve the zoning map amendment and the PUD with a change to the fencing around the problem cul-de-sac (now a hammer-head shape). Reese clarified that the city will be responsible to remove rocks and debris and snow from the new road. Brekhus does not think the overall plan meets the code requirements for expanding affordable housing. The motion passed 5-2 (Reese, Delgado, Weber, Jardon, and Schieve for; Duerr and Brekhus opposed).

Reese then moved to approve the tentative map. Brekhus thinks the development will be a liability for the city and wants to see a more detailed analysis of the fire response before approving the tentative map. She also doesn’t think that there is an adequate plan to keep the wild horses off the roads. Duerr thinks the geology is not suitable for building with very fine soil and friable (easily crushed) rock. The developer plans to bring in a lot of soil that can be compacted for homesites. She is also concerned about earthquake faults that run through the property. She is also concerned that there is not adequate water pressure at the Palisades which would not be adequate for fire fighting efforts. The motion passed with the councilmembers voting the same way.


Meeting Video (near the beginning)

Reno Will Appeal … Again

In a further effort to deny the Lemmon Valley homeowners damages for flooding caused by the city, the city will appeal the recent ruling in favor of the three residents that suffered the worst flood intrusion. Approval to move ahead with the appeal was 4-3.

City Attorney, Karl Hall, opened with the argument that the district court made several errors that he thinks should be settled at the Nevada Supreme Court. He thinks this issue applies to other cases currently pending. He thought the “class certification” was in error and that the liability was not clearly established. He also thinks the damages were determined in error.

Councilmember Brekhus pointed out that this is the second appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court on this case and asked if any of Hall’s arguments had already been considered by the court. Hall indicated that the Supreme Court had not yet ruled on this case.

Councilmember Duerr asked what were the possible outcomes that the city might expect if the appeal is approved. Hall said he hoped that the Supreme Court would order a new trial. He would like some guidance from the Supreme Court in any case. Hall asserted that the additional plaintiff’s attorney’s fees would be about $50,000 additional if they lost. He neglected the added interest the city would be liable for. Duerr has some concern for the public perception of the city spending more money on this case.

Councilmember Jardon expressed concern that the appeal will result in higher plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and would like some idea of what that amount might be if the city appeals and loses. Hall had a vague answer for the costs. He said the city could file an appeal March 10 and that the case would probably take 6 months.

Mayor Schieve asked Hall if the city needs to appeal this case in order to get “clarity” on the law regarding such suits. Hall replied that an appeal is the intended way to get such “clarity”.

Brekhus asked if the city could negotiate with the judge on the amount of the plaintiff’s attorneys’ costs and fees. Hall said yes. Brehus suggested that this would be a better use of the legal team’s time than moving forward with another appeal.

Councilmember Reese thinks there are enough legal errors in the recent ruling that warrant the appeal. “We have an obligation to follow the advice of our lawyer (Hall).” He trusts the judgement of the legal team.

Duerr reminded the council that the plaintiffs have waited over 4 years now. People are living in trailers and have their horses boarded somewhere else. She thinks the increase in the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees will be much higher than Hall suggested. Duerr “I think we should just put this to bed. I’m concerned that this drags on for the city and the plaintiffs as well.”

Jardon referred to the drawn out case of the city against Scenic Nevada was very instructive even though it lasted 15 years. It might be a benefit to pursue this appeal for what would be learned. She also thinks the $1.5M plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees are unreasonable.

Brekhus didn’t think the Scenic Nevada case is applicable to this case. “Continuing to slog through this case will further alienate us from our constituency. I am very troubled by it. I just can’t go there. I don’t think another $50,000 is worth the roll of the dice.”

Schieve “There is a very large emotional toll that this has taken on those residents. I think we all ought to move forward. To me, this just doesn’t sit right. I won’t be supporting it (appeal).”

Reese claimed to take umbrage at the argument that he is callous toward the residents. He asserts that the city should defend itself against what he sees as “bad law”. The decision should not be made based on the emotional considerations: this is a case that will bear on future cases. The legal team is doing a “good job in defending the taxpayers and our general fund.”

Councilmember Weber “I just want to say that I do support our staff and our legal team moving forward to the Supreme Court. It’s just part of the process. This is the right thing to do.”

Schieve moved that the appeal not move forward. Duerr seconded. Brekhus voted “aye”. Reese, Delgado, Weber, and Reese voted “nay”. Then, Reese moved to approve the legal department’s proposal to appeal which carried 4-3.

The viewer is left with a few impressions. Reese takes umbrage easily. He wants to be seen as compassionate while arguing vociferously for fighting the homeowners. Weber made only a passing reference to the suffering endured by her constituents. Who does she represent? Delgado had nothing to say the entire meeting.

Meeting Video (topic starts at 30 minutes from the beginning)

Meeting Agenda

County Whitewash

On Tuesday, 2/16/21 the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a proposal to create a “Commissioner Engagement Program”. It would be run within the county manager’s office under the communications director. It would include commissioner outreach and community advisory boards. The program would be effective in fiscal year 2022 and have a budget of $358,000. It would include two new staff members plus some technology costs. Some of it would come out of the existing county manager budget.

The first track would come out of the communications department with the following initiatives.

  • Provide smart and targeted quality of life enhancements for each district.
  • Make a new website or at least a separate web page.
  • Develop a social media presence (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter)
  • Publish newsletters
  • Host public “coffees” and “chats”

Like most dysfunctional organizations, the first effort is to address the negative perception rather than the underlying problems. It is “putting lipstick on the pig”. It looks like the goal is to increase “public trust in government” without addressing the pattern of malfeasance. The stated goal is to “increase citizen engagement”. This might take the form of a backlash.

A second part of the initiative is to have a greater development focus called “Neighborhood Level Development Input”. This is to “re-engage local developers to expand community outreach and public education”. They want the developers to run more and better meetings describing their new developments. Such meetings feature one-way communication. The developers rarely consider any objections raised by the residents. The program would encourage a “dialogue”, but this seems no different from the present practice if the developer will not compromise. The county wants a “data driven strategy” based on polling. They want better PR. They would improve their standing if they would uphold the existing zoning.

Commissioner Questions

  • Commissioner Herman made the point that she wants to see the return of the earlier Citizen Advisory Boards (CAB’s). Will the new program have regular public meetings? The plan does not include restoring the earlier CAB structure. The meetings in the district would be up to the commissioner.
  • Commissioner Hartung made the point that commissioners should not be appointing family members to local boards.
  • Commissioner Hill thinks that more communication would be useful for her constituents in Incline Village.
  • Commissioner Lucey claims that the original CAB structure was not effective. Every district is very different. The CAB’s should not be changed from the current roles. He is excited about this new program.
  • Commissioner Jung likes a “toolbox” for commissioners to “personalize” their approach toward constituents.

Public Comment

  • A member of the Sun Valley CAB described the utility of the earlier CAB structure and how it was able to serve the residents on a number of issues.
  • The chair of the North Valley’s CAB says that they do not feel included in the whole process by the county commissioners. The CAB recommendations don’t get presented to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC). The CAB’s need to have some authority and there needs to be 2-way communication with the BCC.
  • The chair of the Incline Village CAB reminded all that the CAB roles were limited by the BCC in 2014. Attendance in the Incline Village CAB meetings dropped dramatically after the CAB’s role was limited to development issues. Earlier meetings were attended by the Fire and Police representatives and informed the residents on many topics of local importance.
  • A Warm Springs resident reinforced the point that the role of the CAB’s should be returned to the earlier scope.
  • The chair of the Warm Springs CAB wants to have the CAB’s to have a greater role like they used to.

In meeting after meeting, year after year, the commissioners have listened to hours of residents’ testimony only to decide against them. They are getting plenty of “engagement”. They are simply not supporting the residents. The staff presentation even included a an eerie reference to the “silent majority”: a term coined by Richard Nixon. This brings to mind the slogan from 50 years ago “The majority isn’t silent. The government is deaf.”

The physical symbol of the problem the commissioners face with their constituents is the recent barrier built between the public and the dais. It’s a metaphor for the isolation that the commissioners seek from their constituents.

Staff presentation

Agenda (item 10)

Meeting Video (starts at 2:30)

A Victory for Lemmon Valley Homeowners

The Nevada District Court handed a victory to three plaintiffs claiming damages from flooding caused by reckless development approved by Reno (2/11/21). The court ruled decisively that Reno was liable for more than $750,000 in flood damage plus interest. Judge Breslow granted summary judgment and awarded the plaintiffs the damages that they had requested, and struck numerous City witnesses for failure to properly disclose them. Furthermore, the court sanctioned the Reno attorneys $1,500 for failing to admit the truth of basic facts about the case, such as whether the Plaintiffs has water on their property at any time during 2017. This ruling will be brought before the Reno City Council to determine whether the City will appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. If the City appeals and loses it will likely be liable for additional costs and attorney’s fees. Councilmember Brekhus has already expressed her opinion that the city should settle with the plaintiffs.

This ruling is only part of the story. There are still 27 plaintiffs remaining in Federal Court cases besides the three referred to above. The three state court plaintiffs were part of a class-action suit that had been “decertified” by the Nevada district court. Since the initial trial, the federal requirements had changed so that the remaining Swan-Lake flooding victims can now file their cases directly in Federal Court. The federal case is bolstered by Reno’s loss in state court.


Trial Posts

ThisIsReno article

Ruling document