The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) has said it disagrees with the attorney representing Wildcreek homeowners about the intended use for Wildcreek Golf Course, which is expected to house a high school by fall 2021.
Reno attorney Steven Bus sent a letter to RSCVA attorney Ben Kennedy on June 30 threatening “necessary legal action” if his letter was ignored or if RSCVA indicated plans are moving forward to transfer property to the Washoe County School District.
Kennedy on July 11 replied in writing, disagreeing with Bus’s interpretation of state law and told him any legal challenges would be premature.
Wildcreek Golf Course, 3500 Sullivan Lane in Sparks, is currently run by RSCVA but Washoe County plans to take over operations this summer. It contains an 18-hole, par-72 course and a 9-hole, par-27 course on site and operates at an approximate loss of $200,000 annually.
Tentative plans are for the school district to purchase a portion of the approximately 200-acre Wildcreek property at appraised value and the county would then use the money to reinvest in the Wildcreek area.
A letter from Bus cited Chapter 244A.619(5) of the Nevada Revised Statutes, which says RSCVA can “sell, lease, exchange, transfer, assign or otherwise dispose of any real property only if it is to be operated and maintained as a public project and recreational facility.”
“Obviously, the Nevada Legislature wanted to maintain the real property as recreation use…,” Bus wrote. “It is clear as reflected in the statutes that the Nevada Legislature did not intend a public high school to qualify as a recreational facility. Thus, any attempt to transfer the Wildcreek property to the Washoe County School District for the construction of a high school is illegal and in defiance of the law.”
Kennedy’s letter to Bus, obtained through a public records request, said one provision in a statute doesn’t modify a statute’s entirety.
“Per your interpretation of the statute, things like office equipment or a used tractor operated at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center can only be sold by the RSCVA if the items are forever ‘operated and maintained as a public project and recreational facility,’” Kennedy wrote. “Clearly items of personal property cannot be ‘operated and maintained as a public project and recreational facility’ and such an unreasoned result cannot stand. Your conclusion is based on a tortured reading of the statute, and makes no logical sense.”
The new school at Wildcreek would replace Hug High School, 2880 Sutro St., a comprehensive school built in the late 1960s that serves about 1,450 students. Plans are to close Hug at the end of the 2020-21 school year and send most of its students to the new school at Wildcreek, located 1.8 miles to the east. It would also draw from Sparks, Reed, and Spanish Springs high schools. Hug would then reopen as a career and technical academy in fall 2022.
The Washoe County Commission, Reno and Sparks city councils, Washoe County School District board of trustees and RSCVA have agreed to a letter of intent to work together to start the process.
Kennedy said this isn’t a binding agreement and that the school district is performing its due diligence on the site and determining project feasibility.
“As there is no contractual obligation to convey the subject property, any claim seeking to block a transfer would be premature at this time, and the RSCVA would clearly be entitled to recover any legal fees and costs incurred in defending against premature and frivolous legal action,” Kennedy’s letter to Bus said.
Conceptual plans show the school going on the current 9-hole course and on part of the 18-hole course, depending on approval by the Federal Aviation Administration since the school would be on Reno-Tahoe International Airport’s flight path. A reconfigured 9-hole course to serve the area in the future has also been suggested. Proposals for the area also include a performing arts center, community center, hiking trail, swimming pool, tennis courts, a preschool, and outdoor learning center.
Golf is expected to continue until late 2018, when ground is expected to be broken for the new 2,500-student school, which has yet to be named.
Funds for school construction to alleviate crowding are coming from November’s 0.54 percent voter-approved sales tax increase. Such dollars can go only toward construction of and refurbishing of facilities. This money cannot be used for teacher or administrator salaries or other school operations.
High schools cost about $110 million apiece to build, but exact costs to build at Wildcreek haven’t been determined and district officials have said it could be higher than average because it’s more costly to build on existing-use property than it is on previously unused suburban land. Labor shortages and costs could also be a factor.
Wildcreek homeowners have suggested the school district look elsewhere for land but district staff said have said finding 60 to 80 acres in the urban core is a challenge.
ON THE WEB:
Nevada Revised Statutes, Chapter 244A.619:
Washoe County School District infrastructure plan: http://wcsdbuilding.com
Save Wildcreek Golf Course: https://savewildcreek.com
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Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.