After months of going in front of the Reno Planning Commission, the 1,700-acre StoneGate development to be discussed in front of the Reno City Council
UPDATE: 11/16/2017: The Reno City Council voted 6 to 1 to continue the discussion about StoneGate at its January 10, 2018 meeting. Councilmembers said that they wanted clarity on a number of issues regarding the project — traffic impacts, in particular.
The Reno City Council is scheduled Wednesday to hear zoning changes and a master plan amendment for a 5,000-unit development project in Cold Springs. The project, StoneGate, is projected to be built in five phases over 20 years.
It will comprise what is now the historic Heinz Ranch at Peavine Mountain both north and south of U.S. Highway 395 near the California border. The property is annexed to the city of Reno, though it lies in traditionally unincorporated Washoe County, abutting U.S. Forest Service land.
Numerous objections to the project have been raised, including flood impacts, increased traffic, access to prompt emergency services, impacts to wildlife, and how the development will influence area school populations.
Developers To Fund Emergency Services
Developers modified their project handbook to satisfy these many concerns, but they refused to answer any questions for this story, including an inquiry about how tribal artifacts, discovered on the site, will be managed.
An economic impact study predicted that when the project reaches 1,700 units “in year 6, a new fire station will be required.” The fire station will have 12 firefighters and will be built by the developers in the project’s fifth year; operations and equipment will be funded from the project’s revenues.
Developers also said that they will “fund 15 full-time police officers at full buildout, increasing the number of uniformed officers in the area available…” which will benefit surrounding areas.
Developers, and their PR firm, also touted the environmental and economic benefits that the project is said to bring to the area.
“StoneGate will have a positive fiscal impact on the City of Reno, providing surplus revenues to fund services across the city,” said Greg Ferraro of the Ferraro Group, which represents StoneGate.
At least 200 apartments on site will be reserved for affordable housing, the developers promised.
The project is 1,734 acres and will feature 5,000 residential units as well as 1.2 million square feet for business: industrial uses, storage, offices, retail, and food.
Already congested U.S. Highway 395 in and out of the North Valleys is expected to get worse, but “the (project) is less intense and will generate substantially less traffic than what could be reasonably anticipated under existing zoning,” according to a traffic study for the project.
Developers said that they would mitigate traffic with road and highway improvements as part of the project: “All the study intersections and roadway segments will operate at acceptable levels of service under the 20 Year Background Plus Project scenario.”
City staff expressed concern about traffic in a report:
“Although traffic improvements for internal and direct access from the adjacent arterial (White Lake Parkway) and US 395 are addressed, there are no provisions for trip reduction or transit for this project. It is unclear at this time how the timing of the proposed development within StoneGate will impact existing freeway infrastructure capacity. The project is proposed to build out over a period of 20 years. As development is proposed, updated traffic analysis should be required.”
North Valleys residents, already frustrated with potential gridlock on the highway during peak commute times, would prefer no additional traffic.
Councilman Paul McKenzie said that North Valleys traffic is already unacceptable.
“We have a road network up there that cannot handle (the traffic),” he said at last week’s City Council meeting, referring to proposed industrial development at the North Valleys’ Reno-Stead Airport.
Conflict of Interest Alleged
StoneGate developers requested that City Planning Commissioner John Marshall recuse himself from voting on the project, which Marshall did.
Their reason: Marshall was lead attorney in a suit against StoneGate property owners on behalf of “Citizens for Cold Springs.”
The Citizens case against the City of Reno alleged that the project would “diminish the rural character of the Cold Springs Valley, increase traffic, noise, lighting, adversely affect water supplies and sewer capacity, remove open space and crowd schools,” according to StoneGate’s attorney, Michael Pagni of McDonald Carano.
The litigation was unsuccessful, Pagni added.
But Marshall’s recusal was reason for Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus to ask her colleague Neoma Jardon to recuse herself, as a councilmember, from voting on StoneGate.
Jardon, a former McDonald Carano employee for more than 20 years, is championing houseless issues in the Reno area. (She was featured in our most recent Solutions podcast on homelessness.)
StoneGate partner Don Pattalock verbally committed $50,000 to Jardon’s tiny homes project, which Brekhus alleged was a perceived “quid pro quo” — developer cash for tiny homes in exchange for Jardon’s vote on StoneGate, in other words.
“The very appearance that a quid pro quo arrangement of a significant monetary commitment, even to a worthwhile civic cause, in return for a public official’s support for a development request is not acceptable,” Brekhus wrote in a letter to Jardon.
Not true, Jardon said. “There was no quid pro quo. The mechanism to support projects like the tiny homes isn’t even set up yet.”
Jardon added that City Attorney Karl Hall said that there was no conflict of interest for her regarding StoneGate.
What Do You Think?
Comment below, or the Reno City Council is scheduled to hear StoneGate’s zoning map amendments no earlier than 4 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.
Written comments may be submitted online to the City Clerk: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScj6SU2NcVRme7TCQ1SvA37RBgojhtHfxc5ANNNSqTm6CCx0Q/viewform?c=0&w=1
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.