Reno Approves all of Meridian 120 South

On June 10, 2020, the Reno City Council approved all 6 villages that compose the Meridian 120 South development.  This property is located south of I-80 across from Boomtown and Cabellas.  The development plan currently calls for 621 homes.  The vote was 5-2 with council members Brekhus and Duerr opposed.  Council members Schieve, Delgado, Reese, Jardon, and Weber voted in favor which is no surprise given the lavish support they receive from development interests (Reno Swamp).  The meeting was not open to the public due to concerns of infection given the pandemic.  Reese made the point that there were over 40 meeting participants joining remotely.  The purpose is to review the tentative maps since the properties are already zoned for residential development.

Previously, villages 1&2 were remanded back to the Planning Commission by the city council.  Villages 5&6 were approved .  Villages 3&4 were denied by the Planning Commission.  The city council had remanded the plan for villages 1&2 back to the Planning Commission without approving or denying.  The city had then been sued by the developer.  The developer “paused” their suit with no settlement.  Reno agreed to bring the entire project before the city council and the developer dropped the suit.

Staff Report

Arlo Stockham, Reno Planning staff, introduced the staff report regarding the development.  The development was brought for approval in three separate applications for villages 1&2, villages 3&4, and villages 5&6.  The developer made a concession to rezone 8 acres that had been zoned industrial-commercial and preserve it as open space.

Heather Manzo presented the staff report (Staff-Report_061020).  She gave a little of the history of the approval process.  Following approval there should be updated traffic studies.  [That would seem to be moot.]

The staff suggested several conditions for approval which the developer would accept.

  • Rock lined detention basins for ground water recharge.
  • Set aside 17 acres for a wildlife corridor.
  • Require review of the final maps with the stakeholders (community)
  • Provide 2.9 acres for a fire station
  • Developer to request re-zoning of the industrial area to open space

Appeals

Ed Kaufer (representing The Society for the Preservation of Verdi) made the following points in his appeal (Kaufer_Appeal).  He identified specific findings that could not be met for this development.

  • When the city annexed the properties the city became responsible for infrastructure and emergency services.  The city has already admitted that they are unable to meet these responsibilities (6/6/08).
  • Developing Verdi is a Tier-4 priority (lowest) in the Re-Imagine Reno master plan.
  • The findings needed to approve the development can not be met.
  • The cost of building and maintaining the fire station will not be met by fees paid by the developer.
  • Key issues of drainage and connectivity are not addressed till later phases of the construction.
  • Secondary fire access needs to be present at the time of the first final map.
  • Staff suggests that each of the three phases be considered as a standalone project.  This makes no sense: phases 1 & 2 depend on later phases for drainage, ingress/egress, fire protection, and connectivity.
  • Multiple water related findings cannot be met.
  • Village 2 has excessive density which does not meet the required findings.

Giddeon Caplovitz (representing The Society for the Preservation of Verdi) presented an appeal (McNeil-Caplovitz_Appeal) regarding emergency services.

  • Fire, Police, and EMS services will be inadequate so as to violate the necessary findings.
  • Fire response time is 11-15 minutes.  The route for a fire engine is quite hazardous.
  • The area is in the Wildland-Urban interface area.  This area has a history of wild fires.
  • Developer fees will only cover a fraction (4%) of the fire protection costs.

Dee Anne Radcliffe (representing The Society for the Preservation of Verdi) presented an appeal (Crabb_Appeal) challenging the developer’s traffic study.

  • The trip-reduction requirements from MGOD were not included in the design.
  • The developer’s traffic study conducted by Paul Soleagui was reviewed by LSC Transportation Consultants at the request of the appellants.
  • The review of the report indicated that the average daily trip calculations done by Soleagui were too low (by 16%).  Soleagui did not follow ITE methodology.
  • Heavy snow that November 2019 resulted in lower-than-average traffic.
  • Coming development at Boomtown is not included.

Radcliffe went on to present a second appeal regarding cluster development in Villages 1&2 (Kaufer-Radcliffe_Appeal).

  • The developer did not follow the SF-15 zoning mistakenly represented as SF-9 by Manzo.
  • The Planning Commission denied the plan as not compliant with the zoning.  The same plan was then approved by the Reno City Council identified as “cluster development”.
  • This development does not meet the Reno criteria for a cluster development.
  • Clustering allows for a 15% reduction in lot size: Villages 1&2 are reducing lots by 23%.
  • The existing neighborhood is 1 acre lots or larger.

Andy Durling of Wood Rogers (representing the developer) gave a presentation (Durling_Appeal) for his appeal seeking approval of villages 3&4 that had been denied by the Planning Commission.  He gave an overview of how the development addresses issues of water, fire protection, traffic, and drainage.

Council member questions

Jardon: She wants to see the pedestrian path completed in some form with the initial construction.  She also wants to see the secondary road be built along with the first construction.  It could be a temporary road, but it needs to go in early.

Brekhus: “What is the city required to do with the wildlife corridor included in the plan?  The city should not have to build or maintain it.”  She asked if it were a project of regional significance.  The answer is “no” since it is below the 625 dwelling-unit threshold.  Since it is covered by the MGOD plan, it would not require further review by TMRPA.

Duerr: “Please explain the requirements for cluster development.”  Concerned by lack of funding for a fire station.  “When will the fire station be built during development?”

Public Comment

The city council received 79 letters in opposition to the project plus 2 letters of concern.  Speakers raised the following concerns.

  • Residents are not within incorporated Reno, and so don’t vote for the city council.
  • The bike path does not meet the Reno standards.
  • The plan does not provide connectivity as required in the master plan.
  • Earlier, there was to be private funding to widen the overpass.  There is no such plan now, so how will this be funded?
  • The high density is still a problem with the design.
  • The developer’s open space designation needs to be made permanent.
  • We need a ground water mitigation plan in place.
  • Wildlife habitat on the property should be protected.
  • Drainage requirements should be specifically spelled out.
  • Taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize emergency services for new development.
  • Many important issues are deferred to “final map” which does not inspire confidence that they are being adequately addressed.
  • The city council has 30 days to decide.  The time should be used to further address concerns that have been raised.
  • There is a trust issue: previous conditions on development have not been upheld.
  • Both of the proposed secondary access routes are problematic.
  • None of the issues that were negotiated 20 years ago are being honored.
  • The bicycle/pedestrian underpass is not safe or convenient.

Council discussion

Brekhus: the underpass available to cyclists and pedestrians requires cleaning and maintenance which it would not get as a cattle crossing.  Brekhus is concerned that the developer may go back to court to get the conditions changed in their favor.  There should be a condition that if the developer seeks relief in the courts regarding this development that this approval is vacated.

Duerr: there should be a requirement to use surface water for the new development except for emergencies and a ground water mitigation plan should be included.  Some habitat mitigation should be in place before construction displaces the wildlife.  The drainage features need to be built in advance so as not to affect downstream neighbors during construction.  Villages 3&4 appear to be too close to I-80 to allow for convenient traffic and occasional storm water run off.  The roads in the development are narrow and not suitable to support traffic from 600 homes.  The fire protection plan sounds inadequate and depending on funding from the city.

Voting on Villages 1&2

  • Jardon moved to uphold the Planning Commission’s approval of Villages 1&2 with the conditions just added.
  • Brekhus does not think there is sufficient discussion of the findings or why the council is making this reversal of the earlier action.  Reno can’t provide fire service at this time.
  • Duerr needs to protect public safety.  She is concerned that water availability is not sufficient.  The secondary access road is not adequate.  She thinks the zoning is suspect.  Fire protection is her greatest concern.
  • All voted in favor except for Brekhus and Duerr (5-2).

Voting on Villages 5&6

  • Jardon moved to uphold the Planning Commission’s approval of Villages 5&6 with the conditions just added.
  • Brekhus can’t make the findings especially regarding the overpass and fire safety.
  • Duerr is concerned about the visual impact on other neighborhoods in addition to the concerns she raised regarding the previous motion.
  • All voted in favor except for Brekhus and Duerr (5-2).

Voting on Villages 3&4

  • Jardon moved to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial of Villages 3&4 with the conditions just added.
  • Brekhus thinks this area will have intensive demands on services that the city can’t support.  This area is zoned Arterial Commercial but is being used for residential.
  • Duerr it is incompatible with the surrounding land use, the traffic impacts, and the scale and intensity is excessive.
  • All voted in favor except for Brekhus and Duerr (5-2).

While some new conditions were placed on the development which will provide some benefit, this is a disappointment to the residents who feel that their community is being overwhelmed.

AGENDA          VIDEO

Regional Board Denies Daybreak Appeal

The Truckee Meadows Regional Governing Board denied an appeal by four residents in a 6-4 vote (6/11/20).  The appeal was to overturn the approval of the Daybreak project by the Regional Planning Commission in January.  The four residents made the following presentations.

The Upper Southeast Communities Coalition had a petition signed by 690 residents opposing the development.  The Board had received 32 comments in opposition and 214 comments in support.  The supporting comments presumably came primarily from construction unions.

Introduction and Traffic-Study Issues: Steve Wolgast

    1. The traffic will become unacceptable
    2. The traffic study was based on an inappropriate review
    3. The traffic study is grossly outdated
    4. The traffic study did not follow acceptable practices.

(Appeal_SCW_061120_Final)

Flooding Issues: Franco Crivelli

    1. The developer plans to flood neighborhoods to the north.
    2. The developer’s mitigation plan won’t work.
    3. The flood modelling used does not show the actual flood risk.
    4. The city has a history of failing to enforce the requirements.
    5. Much of Daybreak is in the Critical Flood Zone.

(Appeal_Crivelli)

Mercury Contamination: Kim Rhodemyre

    1. The Mercury testing method taking surface samples is inadequate.
    2. Areas of known Mercury contamination were not tested.
    3. The mitigation plan is not well defined and poses more risks.
    4. Arsenic contamination is not addressed at all.

(USECC – Daybreak Power Point – Mercury_SCW)

Planning Issues: Jim Lewis

    1. Reno is legally committed to support Daybreak as an outcome of the suit.
    2. There is no such thing as “suburban infill”.  It is a ruse by the developer.
    3. Affordable housing needs to be in Reno’s “core” where costs are lower.
    4. There is dangerous traffic in the South Meadows and construction is not done.
    5. Daybreak has high costs which will be reflected in their home prices.

(Daybreak Development Appeal_JL)

Andy Durling gave a presentation that anticipated the arguments the appellants would make.  It mainly addressed issues of what the regional board could consider.  It addressed none of the technical issues raised.  His tone was condescending implying the appellants were emotional and that “science matters and facts matter”.  He closed claiming that the appeal had no merit.

The appellants had 5 minutes to rebut (1:15 each).

Wolgast “Is the board ready to let Mr. Durling define their role?  As an engineer, I agree that facts matter and I notice that Mr. Durling did not address or refute any of the technical points raised.  If facts matter, then why is the developer using an arguably fraudulent traffic study?”

Crivelli “We can have no confidence that the commitments for flood storage will be met.  This project will increase off-site flooding.  The claim that Truckee flooding will stop at Mira Loma is ludicrous.”

Rhodemyre “I didn’t say NDEP didn’t know what they were doing (asserted by Durling).  I said they couldn’t answer any of my questions till the ‘404’ permit was applied for.  NDEP does not do their own testing, but relies on the developers’ paid-engineers data.  The Daybreak project has not been modeled for a 100 yr flood on Steamboat Creek.  Will their design make the flood model worse?  There is no model for the situation where the Truckee River and Steamboat Creek flood in the same period.  This will be catastrophic.”

Lewis “While Mr. Pagni (developer attorney) claimed that my statements were emotional, I clearly showed all my reference material.  It is very clear that Mr. Durling lied in his presentation.  He inappropriately used terms from “urban infill” for “suburban infill”.  This deception is kind of amazing.  Mr. Durling did not address the traffic accident data that already shows that the development in the South Meadows is excessive.  Daybreak is an effort to build urban development in suburbia.”

Commissioner Hartung made the assertion that having more housing stock would reduce housing prices overall.  Council member Brekhus countered with the truism “If everything gets approved, then nothing gets built.”  Her point is well taken.  There are 90,000 dwelling-units worth of housing stock that have been approved but not built in the region.  This is double what is likely needed for the next 20 years.

Council member Bybee asked specific questions of the developer and did not get answers.  She asked repeatedly about the housing prices and expected rents and was rewarded with “median price” and “market rate”.  The casual observer might expect her to be irritated by Mr. Durling’s obvious evasion, but she voted to uphold the approval anyway.

No board members were swayed: the votes were as expected.  Council member Duerr moved to overturn the Planning Commission approval citing numerous noncompliances with the regional code.  This was seconded by Brekhus and supported by Commissioner Herman.  It looked hopeful for a moment.  Duerr made the arguments that made it easy for others to follow her.

Reese, Weber, Hartung, Lawson, and Abbott, voted to uphold the approval.  Commissioner Berkbigler suffered a power outage during the meeting, so she did not vote.  It would not have changed the outcome in any case.

It was discouraging.  The public safety issues were clear and urgent: none were addressed.  This board is not “up to” protecting the public.  There was a sense in the meeting that the votes were decided in advance.  It appeared that the Reno Swamp may extend to Sparks.  Most of our local officials seem to work for the development interests.

Meeting Agenda  (20-06-11 RPGB Agenda Final       Meeting Video

Daybreak Appeal to Regional Board 6/11

The Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Authority (TMRPA) approved the Daybreak development on January 23, 2020.  Several residents are appealing this decision to the regional board.  Due to the pandemic, the hearing of the appeal was postponed until June 11, 2020.  It will be held at the Washoe County chambers.  Only the TMRPA staff, the appellants, and the applicants (developers) will be present.  The board members representing Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County will join remotely.  No members of the public may attend.  As of Wednesday, June 3, no time has been set for the appeal.

You will not be able to make a public comment in person, but you can submit a public comment by e-mail or by Facebook.  The TMRPA is keeping a log of public comment received on this issue, so if you’ve already sent an e-mail, it appears to be part of the record.  You may also want to express your opinion to one of the board members.  If you have not sent an e-mail expressing your opinion of the appeal, you can send it to input@tmrpa.org .  By Facebook … https://www.facebook.com/tmrpa/ .

See this earlier post for the argument against Daybreak.

See public comment already submitted regarding Daybreak.

TMRPA Board Members

Reno

Sparks

Washoe County

….

No Evans Creek (Ballardini) Annexation

The Reno City Council voted unanimously not to annex the Evans Creek property into the City of Reno.  The parcels are within the City of Reno’s “Sphere of Influence”.  There are four parcels (1019 acres total) owned by the Evans Creek LLC (Stillwater, MN).  The property is also known as Ballardini Ranch.

Angela Fuss, Reno Planning Manager

  • This is a petition for voluntary annexation meaning that it is requested by the developer rather than being selected by the city.
  • The number of homes is not yet determined.  One proposal was for 203 homes while the later one was for 1256 homes (the maximum allowable under expected zoning).  The terrain will not allow the maximum number to be built.  The final count is likely to be closer to 600.
  • There is no development plan or master plan amendment at this time.  It is not a requirement for annexation.
  • The property has two entrances.  From the North, it can be accessed from McCarran Blvd.  From the South, it can be accessed by Lonetree Lane which is not paved.
  • The majority of the homes would be built on the northern parcel which has slopes of roughly 15% while the southern parcels have slopes around 30%.
  • A 2016 study revealed excess supply in expensive single family homes with more demand for multi-family and affordable homes.  “Reno needs a balance of different types of housing.”
  • The list of properties that Reno wants to annex has not been updated since 2010.

Nathan Gilbert, representing the developer

  • The Reno planning staff has twice submitted reports recommending “unconditional approval”.
  • The development would feature “high end” homes on large lots that would be a fiscal benefit to Reno.

Councilmember Brekhus:

  • The zoning on the southern properties would indicate a total of 40 residential units.  These would be 5-40 acre lots.  There is an excess supply of such homes according to the 2016 study.
  • This has been categorized as a “Tier-2” property for annexation.  That means it is lower priority than “Tier-0” or “Tier-1”.
  • The city committed to do an inventory of properties that could be developed within Reno’s Sphere of Influence in 2018.  This has not been done.

Councilmember Duerr:

  • The developer did not provide detail required for the slope requested nor did they provide a concurrent master plan to relate back to the Reno master plan (Re-Imagine Reno).
  • Residents are concerned what the development will look like, and the council needs to understand the purpose.
  • The two access points are insufficient for a 1,000 acre development.
  • Sewer service would be provided by the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility which is already operating at capacity.
  • There are conflicting claims of water rights and water easements.  These should be resolved before annexation.
  • Following annexation, Reno will be responsible for sewer, water, fire protection and police protection.
  • A number of fires have started on this property and have grown to damage homes on neighboring properties.

Trey Palmer, Fire Marshall

  • The closest Reno Fire Department station to the property is #7 on Skyline which could get to the property’s northern entrance in 2-4 minutes.  The response to any home would be longer given that it is such a large property.
  • The fire engine response from the South would be problematic.  The nearest station is #12 and it is not close.  Fire response would further be hindered by the state of Lonetree Lane.
  • This property is at the Urban/Wildland interface and is considered a high fire hazard area.  There is a history of fires originating on the property.

Public comment messages received:

1 letter in support; 55 letters in opposition; 30 letters expressing concern

Public Comment by remote phone:

The attorney for the Pines property to the west of the Evans Creek wants to see the city annex the Evans Creek property.  He wants to see the planning be coordinated with the Pines property for roadway, utilities and trails.

Duerr moved not to annex at this time for the following reasons.

  • Inadequate access
  • Housing type not needed now
  • High fire hazard and poor fire fighting access
  • Water issues unresolved
  • Number of homes undetermined

Councilmember Reese seconded

Brekhus, Duerr, Reese, Delgado, Schieve, Weber, and Jardon voted “aye” remotely.

 

 

 

Reno Swamp #2: Follow The Money

“In Texas, an honest politician is one who stays bought.” Molly Ivins

It seems illogical that local elected officials would approve developments with major flaws that were broadly unpopular with their constituents.  You would expect the officials to please their constituents to favor their own re-election.  But, money buys advertising and campaign marketing for these elections.  For the many voters who are not following local issues, the marketing may be more important than goodwill.  Both Reno and Washoe County limit council members and commissioners to three terms.  Campaign contributors for local officials may support their campaigns for state and federal offices once the officials cannot run again.  Perhaps, the power of marketing, combined with the advantage of incumbency, makes money more important than reputation.

As a voter, taxpayer, and resident, you might wonder if there is really a correlation between campaign contributions received by officials and their votes.  There is; but, correlation is not causation.  Just because there is a pattern between campaign contributions and votes does not mean that these votes are “bought”.  Local officials might have valid reasons for their votes independent of the contributions.  It may be that it is influence that is bought which colors all decisions.   The correlation is strong, however, making the premise “contributions buy votes” hard to discount.

There are caveats to this analysis.

  • The contribution information comes from the Nevada Secretary of State records.  This information is provided by the candidates.  If the candidate makes an error or omission, it will not be corrected.
  • Contributions below $250 per quarter were not examined.  Only a few of these smaller contributions are from development interests.
  • Some contributors could not be easily categorized.  If these had an interest in development, it was not obvious, and they were not counted as developers.
  • Only recorded campaign contributions are listed.  Gifts, or other contributions would not be recorded.
  • “Developer” is defined here as any person or corporate body that benefits financially from development directly or indirectly.  A developer benefits directly when his development gets approved.  A realtor benefits indirectly when there is a lot of new housing to sell.  So, “Developer” would include developers, builders, realtors, engineering firms, building-trade unions, building supply companies, and attorneys that represent developers.

Given these limitations, the actual contributions from developers are under-counted in this analysis.

So, what about the votes?  For this analysis, 13 major development votes were selected from 2014 to present.  These may not be the most significant votes, but they are representative and cover the tenure of the current council members.

Development                                           Date         Voting in Favor 

  • Evans Ranch                                     1/15/14     Delgado, Jardon, Schieve
  • Bella Vista Ranch                             10/8/14     Delgado, Jardon, Schieve
  • West Meadows Estates                  11/24/14    Delgado, Jardon, Duerr, Schieve
  • Rancharra                                          5/13/15    Brekhus, Delgado, Jardon, Duerr, Schieve
  • Sky Vista Amendment                   11/18/15    Brekhus, Delgado, Jardon, Duerr, Schieve
  • North Valley Estates                          6/8/16     Brekhus, Delgado, Jardon, Duerr, Schieve
  • Meridian South rezoning               11/8/17     Delgado, Jardon, Duerr
  • Stonegate                                           2/14/18     Delgado, Jardon, Duerr, Schieve, Weber
  • Westview Estates rezoning              5/2/18    Delgado, Jardon, Schieve
  • Logisticenter Lemmon Valley        7/18/18    Delgado, Jardon, Schieve, Duerr
  • Daybreak                                           11/14/18   Jardon, Duerr, Schieve, Weber
  • Daybreak revisited                            9/23/19   Delgado, Jardon, Weber, Reese
  • Bella Vista Ranch II amendment      1/8/20    Weber

Candidates elected in 2012; (contributions from 1/1/2012 through 4/15/2020)

Jardon: $146,256 from developers, 40% of total $364,339; voted w/developers 92%

Delgado: $100,275 from developers, 40% of total $251,171; voted w/developers 85%

Brekhus: $62,950 from developers, 22% of total $290,941; voted w/developers 25%

Candidates elected in 2014; (contributions from 1/1/2014 through 12/31/2019)

Schieve: $280,286 from developers, 33% of total $858,007; voted w/developers 75%

Duerr: $87,323 from developers, 29% of total $300,680; voted w/developers 80%

Candidates elected in 2018; (contributions from 1/1/2014 through 12/31/2019)

Weber: $103,700 from developers, 61% of total $169,329; voted w/developers 100%

Appointed to fill a vacancy in 2019; (contributions from 3/15/2019 through 4/15/2020)

Reese: $43,450 from developers, 43% of total $100,250; voted w/developers 100%

Note: Reese was only on the council for one of the votes considered.

It’s clear: large developer contributions correlate to favorable consideration of developments by the council members.  The correlation is imperfect, but convincing.  The true intentions behind the votes cannot be known.

The casinos contribute nearly as much as the developers do to local campaigns.  Behind them are the many cannabis (pot) interests.  Some candidates get few individual campaign contributions.

REFERENCES

Table of contribution data in Excel (Reno_Swamp_05)

Nevada Secretary of State contribution and expense reports

Reno City Council minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pleasant Valley Estates Denied

The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners denied the appeal of the Pleasant Valley Estates development that had been previously denied by the Washoe County Planning Commission.  Roger Pelham presented the county staff review of the appeal.  This process is slightly different in that the developer wants to amend the plan as part of the appeal.  So, it is not seeking approval of the original plan.  The developer is requesting to reduce the number of lots from 58 to 45 and changed the maximum and minimum lot sizes as well.  The primary access road (Chance Lane) will lead into the development on a more gradual slope than in the original proposal.  The road slope will now be 9% (County maximum) instead of 12% as originally proposed.  The bridge on Rhodes Road is not acceptable to carry fire engines.  It is not clear if that is a function of its design or its deteriorated condition.  Fire crew access was estimated to be 16 minutes when the county standard is 10 minutes.  The Truckee Meadows Fire Department proposed that all the homes have residential sprinklers due to the limited access by fire crews.  This requirement is incorporated as a condition of the project.  The staff found the development generally consistent with the goals and policies of the Master Plan.

One inconsistency: Pelham reported that the steeper parts of the property would be made part of the open space while the lot maps show the steeper parts included in larger residential lots.

Commissioner Hartung asked Pelham why this plan wasn’t immediately remanded back to the Planning Commission once the developer made changes.  Pelham didn’t know, but said that the developer wanted it to come to the Board of County Commissioners as part of their appeal.  The County Attorney explained that the Board had the authority to approve the amended plan without further review by the Planning Commission.

John Krmpotic (representing the developer; Fry) presented the developer proposal (WC BCC on 5-12-20 PVE Presentation final 2).  The properties are zoned Medium Density Suburban (3 dwellings per acre), Low Density Suburban (1 dwelling per acre), and Medium Density Rural (5 acre lots).  Their tentative map roughly follows the existing zoning.  The sum of all the lots possible under the existing zoning would be 58 dwellings.  One must consider that parts of the property are too steep to build on, so the lot map needs to conform.  The new design does not include “clustering” so that all the lots conform to the existing zoning.  (Following the clustering rules gives the developer more flexibility, but results in smaller lots.)  Krmpotic asserted that the redesign was specifically intended to address the two principal concerns regarding the original design which were road access and neighborhood character.  If the project is approved now, the construction would likely start in 18-24 months due to uncertainty in the real estate market.

For Public Comment, Lucey received 56 e-mails regarding the project.  Residents expressed the following points by voice-mail or by phone.  No residents expressed support for the development.  Lucey said he received a single e-mail expressing support, but did not identify the sender.

  • Rhodes Road is used by pedestrians, horsemen, and cyclists.  It is not suitable to support more traffic for this new development.  Why not have the main access from Toll Road?  (Rhodes Road is a “country lane” with no sidewalks or shoulders.)
  • The Rhodes Road bridge would be inadequate for the additional traffic even if it were repaired.
  • Chance Lane is unpaved and floods occasionally.  The county routinely provides sandbags at this location.
  • The development will cause increased flooding for the existing neighbors.
  • Fry’s developments have had problems that went unaddressed in the area.
  • The Board should uphold the decisions by the Planning Commission and the Citizen’s Advisory Board to deny the project.  The Commissioners selected the members of these bodies and should respect their decisions.  The Board has consistently sided with the developers rather than the residents.
  • The developer did not bring the amended plan to the community for review.
  • The amended plan should be returned to the Planning Commission for review as a new proposal rather than proceeding with the appeal.

Lucey expressed concern that this is not “smart development”.  This does not address the needs of the housing market and the road access problems have not been addressed.  Rhodes Road is “challenged” and not suitable for additional traffic.  He is also concerned by the steep road and the regular flooding that occurs.  The amended plan does not include sufficient improvements that he would feel comfortable to support it.  It may put the onus on the county to fund improvements to support the development.

Hartung agreed with Lucey.  He is concerned with the unintended consequences of such developments.  The developer should have presented the amended plan to the Planning Commission rather than seeking to incorporate the changes in the appeal.  Hartung moved to deny the appeal “with prejudice”.  This precludes the developer from going back to the Planning Commission with the same project for a year.

Krmpotic asked the commission not to deny them the opportunity to take it back to the Planning Commission to make further changes and seek Planning Commission approval.

Lucey expressed frustration with Fry’s previous projects that they did not accommodate the interests and concerns of the residents.  The issues should be addressed in the development plan rather than appealing to the Board to overturn a denial.

Lucey seconded Hartung’s motion.  The vote was unanimous to deny with prejudice.  All commissioners voted.

AGENDA (item 17)          VIDEO (time mark 2:05)

 

New Wildfire Guidelines

The following is a guest post by Tom Daly.  He follows area fire issues.

New Wildland Code in Washoe County

On Tuesday May 12th the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) adopted an updated wildland code impacting homeowners, among others, especially those in wildfire risk areas.
Amending Chapter 60 of the Washoe County Code, the BCC adopted the 2018 edition of the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC), as amended.
The IWUIC addresses, among other obligations, requirements for homeowners to maintain specified distances between homes (structures) and fuels (non-fire resistive vegetation). Those distances are based on what ‘wildfire hazard zone’ your home is in. Those zones are either ‘moderate’, ‘high’ or ‘extreme’.

For Washoe County, a map showing those zones can be found here:

https://gis.washoecounty.us/wrms/firehazard  (zoom-in to see fire zones)

Note: red indicates “extreme hazard”, orange “high”, green “moderate”, and blue “low”.

For homes in a ‘moderate’ wildfire hazard zone, a 30ft wide buffer between a home and hazardous vegetation is required. In a ‘high’ zone that distance is 50ft and in an ‘extreme’ zone, it is 100ft.
Per Section 603.2.2 of the code, ‘Trees are allowed with the ‘defensible space’ provided that the horizontal distance between crowns of adjacent trees and crowns of trees and structures, overhead electrical facilities or unmodified fuel is not less than 10 feet’.
Homeowners and, in some limited cases, HOAs are responsible for maintaining these distances.
The IWUIC Section 607.1 further provides that ‘firewood shall not be stored in unenclosed spaces beneath buildings, or on decks or under eaves, canopies, or other projections or overhangs’.
To assist homeowners in evaluating such conditions, Truckee Meadows Fire Rescue (TMFR) has a new fuels management team available. For more information see

https://www.washoecounty.us/tmfpd/fire-prevention/fire-hazard-concerns.php

As wildfire season will start soon, prudent prevention is paramount.

ADDENDUM

These requirements can be legally enforced.  Per the Washoe County Code (WCC) Sec. 60.100.050, up to $1,000 per occurrence and/or six months in jail.

Also, the Fire District can ask the DA to seek a court order for compliance, with penalties up to and including eviction of the occupant (Sec. 60.110.4.6).

While not a local case, I know of instances where a County has declared such conditions to be a ‘nuisance’ and, with a warrant, enter the property and abate the hazard with the cost to do so being entered as a lien on the property.

Washoe County has a ‘Nuisance Code’, see WCC Chap. 50.

Enforcement usually starts with educating the offender as to the hazard and the need for abatement, followed by an ‘order to abate’.

Proactive enforcement of this code (2012 edition adopted in 2014) historically in the TMFPD has been in response to a complaint, typically from a neighbor whose property is threatened by hazardous vegetation his neighbor has failed to abate.

Real world examples of the failure to abate were evident in the 2007 Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angora_Fire.

One homeowner, who had ensured his home had the requisite ‘defensible space’, nonetheless saw his home burn to the ground as neither of his adjacent neighbors had done any fuel reduction. The fire swept thru the neighborhood and some 250 homes were lost.

Pleasant Valley Estates Appeal

The Pleasant Valley Estates development  off of Rhodes Road in Pleasant Valley will be the subject of an appeal at the County Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 starting at 10:00 AM.  This is a development of 58 homes on 42 acres representing further suburban influence in the area.  The development had been denied by the Washoe Planning Commission in October 2019 as not consistent with the character of the area.

This is item 17 on the agenda.  The meeting will be closed to the public due to the pandemic, but concerned residents can express their views in various ways.

The agenda indicates that the developer will amend the development to reduce the number of lots to 45.  The smallest lots will still be 0.3 acres.  There does not appear to be a new tentative map available for the public to review.

Residents are concerned that this development is not consistent with the character of the area.  They are also concerned at the dilapidated condition of the Rhodes Road bridge over Steamboat Creek.  This will be the primary access to the new development.

The Board of County Commissioners has a near perfect record of overturning the planning commission to favor developers.

UPDATE 5/9/20

I stand corrected.  The development is located in Steamboat Valley adjacent to Pleasant Valley.

Dr. Bob Parker has raised the following concerns.

This amended plan is seriously deficient in the following areas.  He has conveyed this to the county clerk.

  1. Fire and EMS
    1. The developer assumed that fire protection and EMS coverage would be provided by a volunteer fire station on old US 395 at the junction of Pagni Lane. That station has not been active for about 20 years and was sold to another owner in 2017. The developer contends that the TMFPD had told him that it was active, and that contention is repeated in the appeal, which makes it clear that the developer’s statements about sufficiency of public services are imagined and not real. That is sufficient to deny the appeal.
    2. If a structure fire requires a water tender to respond, the bridge at Rhodes Road and US 395 not strong enough to handle a fully loaded water tender.
    3. The secondary access proposed from Star Point is not wide enough for emergency response at the junction with Star Point.
    4. Proposed secondary access via Rocky Vista is a dirt road not sufficient for an emergency response.
  2. The development is in a pocket valley. The developer assumed he could collect runoff in a retention pond (On Parcel A) and pump it off the development. The original idea was to pump it in the southerly direction onto an adjacent property; there was no concurrence from that owner.  It is not clear what disposal is imagined in the new application, nor is it clear how the retention pond would be managed to prevent disease or injury.

Sierra Reflections Extension Approved

On Tuesday, April 28, the Washoe County Commission approved the extension of the Sierra Reflections development in the Pleasant Valley area south of Reno.  This extension was first brought forward on April 15 for a “first reading“.  With the second reading on Tuesday, it could be acted upon by the board.  This is a zombie project that was first approved in 2006, but for which the final map has not been submitted.  The final map submission indicates that there is a construction plan to a detail level with review and approval by various agencies.  It has been extended several times.

The Steamboat Valley and Pleasant Valley areas are sparsely populated and the area has a rural character.  The Sierra Reflections development is a high-density, suburban development that will overwhelm the area.  Area residents dread that this project may be built.

In Public Comment, there was a concern that this is the largest, most dense development south of Mt. Rose Highway in the area.  The speaker was concerned by the recent contraction of fire services in the area and made the point that there will need to be a plan to expand fire services if this development is built.

The motion passed unanimously with all 5 commissioners present or online: Lucey, Berkbigler, Jung, Hartung, and Herman.

The poorly-defined, South Valleys Sewer Bond, is likely intended to increase sewer capacity to support this growth.  It looks like taxpayers are being asked to subsidize development.

 

 

 

 

Sierra Reflections Extension Proposed

The massive development in the Pleasant Valley and Steamboat Valley area is being considered for an extension of it’s final map deadline from June 14, 2020 to June 14, 2022.  The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) gave the first reading of this proposal on Tuesday 4/14/20.  The Sierra Reflections project was first approved in 2006 and has had the deadline (5 year) extended repeatedly.  With a proposed size of 938 homes on 760 acres, it is one of the largest of the zombie projects in Washoe County.  It will dramatically alter the Pleasant Valley and Steamboat Valley neighborhoods if it is built.  The item is #19 on the agenda.

Commissioners Herman, Hartung, Lucey (presiding), and Berkbigler were present.  Hartung and Berkbigler were wearing masks in light of the Covid-19 virus precautions.  The chambers were closed to the public.

This project is subject to the South Valleys Area Plan and is in Commissioner Lucey’s district.

The County Clerk indicated that some updates were amended fire safety provisions with current fire code requirements and removing the Department of Water Resources restrictions now that Truckee Meadows Water Authority is the water provider.

There was little discussion.

Commissioner Hartung “I have no discomfort with this.”

Commissioner Lucey “This was recently approved unanimously by our Citizens Advisory Board (March 5, 2020).”

Ken Krater, developer, “I can assure you we have been working on this project diligently.  We are improving the Steamboat Creek channel.  Working with community and NDOT to consider a roundabout at the intersection of Eastlake Blvd and Old 395.  We’re working on the design of the sewer line that will reach through Pleasant Valley.

Commissioner Lucey  “Will bring this forward for adoption at the April 28, 2020 board meeting