The Process

The steps in getting approval for a new development.

1) The developer brings his plans to the County offices where it is reviewed by staff. Staff will typically identify compliance problems to the developer for them to fix.

2) The developer’s plan will also be reviewed by the Citizen’s Advisory Board for that district. The Citizens Advisory Board will hold a public meeting.

3) The Planning Commission receives the report from the Citizen’s Advisory Board and the report from the county staff. At a public meeting, the Planning Commission discusses the reports and the issues that are raised. There is time for members of the public to voice their concerns at this meeting. The Planning Commission then votes whether the developer can move forward with his plan or whether additional work is needed to bring the plan into compliance. If additional work is needed, the developer can re-submit his plan at a later date after making needed changes.

4) Alternately, the Planning Commission can approve the plan as presented at which point it goes to the next stage of detail design.

5) The Planning Commission does not need to follow the conclusions of the staff report or the Citizen’s Advisory Board report. They can be arbitrary. The Planning Commission decision can be appealed to the County Commission by residents or interested parties.

6) The appeal will be heard by the County Commissioners. They can concur with the decision of the Planning Commission and approve, reverse the decision of the Planning Commission and reject, or require that additional work be done on the development plan which would send the tentative map back to the planning commission.

7) If the developer gets all or part of their plan denied, there is still another avenue to pursue: the Washoe County Board of Adjustment.  This body (appointed by the commissioners) can allow variances to zoning requirements in the unincorporated county.  So, if a developer wants to locate an industrial rock operation in a rural area, he can apply to the Board of Adjustment for a variance or special-use permit.  If his variance is denied, he can appeal the denial to the Board of County Commissioners.  [Link to Board of Adjustment page]

When the process fails your neighborhood ..

When challenging any development, it is important to understand the process it goes through so you know where you can interject to help shape it.

The first thing to know that developers have a set of rules to follow. This may seem obvious, but if you want to make real change, you need to know the codes and not just come at the county with “not in my backyard”

The Washoe County Development code contains all of the rules and regulations a developer must follow. It also incorporates various area plans that may have special rules for your area. It is dense. Not all of it is black and white. There is interpretation involved and, most importantly, the planning commission can kinda ignore it if they want to. So KNOW YOUR CODE and stand by what’s in the code.

The county planning department will work with the developer to make sure it meets all the minimum requirements of Washoe County codes and various area plan regulations. This is a great place to interject with the county if there are specific requirements you want the developer to meet. We discovered that the bulk of the work gets done in this phase, and its hard to change once the planning staff stamps off on it. They are human, and they do make mistakes, overlook things, and sometimes may have a different interpretation of the code than residents.

If you are fighting a development that you feel is unfairly getting pushed through, you need galvanize your area against it and get people to voice their concerns and show up to meetings in mass. The most influence you have is over the county commissioners desire to be re-elected.