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City Council Discusses Priorities For Next Legislative Session

By Carla O'Day

excavator-862534_960_720By Carla O’Day

Issues that range from vacant lots and abandoned buildings to extending the redevelopment area were discussed Wednesday as the Reno City Council mulled over matters that should take preference at the Nevada Legislature.

State law specifies that Reno is permitted two bill draft requests. All requests for the next session, which starts February 2017, are due Sept. 1. An intent, justification, suggested wording and fiscal impacts are to be included in requests.

Suggestions were as follows:

  • Ask for a 15-year extension for the city’s Redevelopment District Area 1, which was approved in 1983 and good for 45 years, expiring in 2028. RDA 1 couldn’t take full advantage of benefits due to a 2008 recession. This includes utilizing a tax increment to assist and incentivize new projects.
  • Reduce blight and promote growth in redevelopment areas by asking for authority to charge fees to empty properties that sit, and requiring vacant property owners file plans explaining intentions and timelines. Property owners would be required to pay off fees before issuance of building permits.
  • Amendments to the city charter, which include how municipal court judges get on the bench.
  • Allow local governments to collect impact fees from developers for school capital improvement projects. Municipalities in Nevada operate under a 1989 law that authorizes collection of impact fees from developers but this law does not allow jurisdictions to collect impact fees for schools.
  • Collect an increase surcharge on 9-1-1 calls to fund dispatch and radio improvement. The current surcharge is 25 cents per month per phone number. An increased surcharge would assist with emergency response, and legislation could generate new funds for dispatch and radio improvements.

Council members are expected in the next month to decide what to pursue. The issue of fire department consolidation also came up.

Councilman Paul McKenzie said bill draft requests need to be made as simple as possible because state lawmakers aren’t likely to approve something they don’t understand.

“If we’re looking at doing this, we’ve got to have a goal in mind that’s pretty simple to explain and pretty easy to show the benefit for…and probably not just a benefit that will be good for Reno, but a tool other cities can use as well,” McKenzie said. “We’ve got to be able to sell it to the bulk of the legislature.”

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