Permanent Burning Man Staging Area Gets Nod From County

Black Rock Station. Image: Google Maps.
Black Rock Station. Image: Google Maps.

A Burning Man staging area north of Gerlach received approval today from the Washoe Board of County Commissioners to change the property to a more permanent staging area for the annual Black Rock Desert event.

A number of special use permits for residential and industrial uses were combined into a zone change that will allow for increased use on the 200-acre property, Black Rock Station.

According to a staff report,

The proposed amendment will supersede all existing special use permits and provide development standards for areas and all uses at the site. The amendment proposes to establish five separate use areas, including Civic, Residential, Industrial, Agricultural, and Future. Uses are grouped into one of these use areas. The industrial area contains significant buffering requirements and the entire site is subject to layers of mitigation to lessen the impact on the surrounding property owners and the community at large.”

County Planner Dr. Eric Young said the change came about after years of negotiations between the county and Black Rock LLC, Burning Man’s owners, negotiations that weren’t always cordial.

“We have really started to rebuild that trust,” he said after the county developed new development processes that were a better fit for the area. “Some of those residential uses (will be) temporary … They can only be used for 90 days in a calendar year. (In addition), there’s a cap of 500 people at any given time.

“We’re really limiting this to things that they need to get started now,” he added.

Traffic impacts and code enforcement were questioned, and Young said changes could be made to the zoning and use at the property. He said the owners have to maintain a plan with the county fire marshal.

“If the plan lapses, all activities on the site have to stop,” he said. “There is an extensive plan in place for fire and EMS service.”

Enforcement of zoning requirements would be based on citizen complaints, however.

“Unless somebody comes in and points a finger and says, ‘hey they’re doing that,’ we’re not out there driving around looking for it,” Young said. “We will have an occasion to be out there from time-to-time for various inspections, (but) there are certain things like that where there’s not going to be a county person standing there looking at it.”

Other County Commission Meeting Highlights

Provided by Washoe County

1. Board of County Commissioners approves funding for a year-round, overflow shelter for the homeless. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of County Commissioners approved up to $2,020,856 in funding for the Community Assistance Center (CAC), which will be included as part of the future FY 16-17 Interlocal Agreement with the cities of Reno and Sparks to help operate the shelter.

A portion of the money will go toward the addition of new programming to support the year-round overflow shelter, providing a place for the homeless to stay year-round while also providing case management to support individualized needs which increases funding from $1.9 million a year to $2.6 million.

In addition to the recently approved funding for the CAC, Washoe County pays for three full-time case management positions at the shelter.

Washoe County Adult Social Services is a participating agency at the CAC and provides services to assist individuals who are homeless with resources and case management in conjunction with all Washoe County indigent services totaling more than $25 million annually.

The CAC provides a men’s, women’s and family shelter. The CAC served more than 2,500 people during the past fiscal year.

“This is a regional issue that affects every single municipality and every corner of our county,” Washoe County Commission Chair Kitty Jung (Dist. 3) said. “I made the promise that I could get the votes to support helping the homeless and I am proud of this Commission for doing so.”

2. County Commissioners adopt a Resolution of Support for federal public lands legislation to aid economic development, conservation, and recreation in Washoe County. The resolution achieves one of the Commission’s Strategic Plan objectives, which is to be a steward of our community.

The resolution makes the following a priority:

Making federal lands available for economic development opportunities
Expanding recreational opportunities in Washoe County by providing land for parks and trails
Preserving opportunities for recreation on public lands
Conserving by designating new wilderness areas and providing funding for habitat restoration and other conservation efforts

“This is a phenomenal piece of legislation for Washoe County as a whole as we move forward and start looking toward the potential for economic development,” Washoe County Commission Vice Chair Bob Lucey (Dist. 2) said. “This legislation also allows Washoe County to be in control of our own destiny as we move forward.”

Background

For more than 15 years, County Commissioners have been discussing a potential public lands bill or been involved in the concept of one. About the same time a public lands bill was being discussed, County Commissioners identified federal lands in Washoe County that had potential for public use or economic development. In 2013, County Commissioners once again directed staff to identify federal lands that may have a future purpose for the public and/or economic development. More info here.

3. Grant approved for South Valley’s Playground Resurfacing Project. County Commissioners approved a $91,207 Land & Water Conservation Fund grant for the South Valley’s Playground Resurfacing Project. The grant requires a 50 percent match and will be using Residential Construction Tax funds. The money will be used to remove wood chips from the playground and resurface 5,650 square feet of playground with rubberized tile material in areas kids are prone to falling.

The new, rubberized surface will save taxpayers money by reducing the amount of upkeep and maintenance. County staff currently replaces the wood chips annually. The new, rubberized tiles require minimal maintenance and provide a much longer life span which, in turn, frees up staff to take on other tasks within the park.

4. County Commissioners accept grant to serve seniors nutritious meals. County Commissioners accepted a $131,373 grant award from the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division for programs to help seniors. The grant is part of the Nutrition Services Incentive Program, which is an Older Americans Title III program. The grant goes toward serving seniors healthy, nutritious meals at senior centers and delivers them through the Meals on Wheels Program. More than 1,000 Washoe County seniors receive a free, nutritious meal every day from Senior Services.

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Bob Conrad is proprietor and co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company (disclosure: client work includes projects funded by grants through UNR) and is an adjunct faculty member at Truckee Meadows Community College. He is a contributor to Reno Public Radio.