Assistant City Attorneys Jonathan Shipman and Julie Towler have issued an opinion to the City Council against moving forward with a proposal to move the University of Nevada, Reno’s historic homes to Evans Park. Council can, however, override this opinion, as critics say the opinion is faulty.
The proposal, advanced by area historic preservationists, would violate Evans Park’s deed restriction to remain a park, Shipman and Towler said in a letter Wednesday to council members and the mayor. In short, they cited case law and city ordinances to support the idea that the park must remain a park.
“Whether the proposed project conflicts with the deed restriction requiring the parcels to be used ‘forever for Park Purposes’ is determined by looking at the totality of the circumstances,” they wrote in a memorandum. “While the property will remain open and free2 to the public for recreational use and enjoyment, it will generally serve a different population, namely tourists, shoppers, (UNR visitors), and people interested in the history of Gateway historical homes, not neighborhood residents and students living within walking distance.”
The preservationists’ proposal, therefore, violates the deed restriction by changing the fundamental character of the park, he explained.
Historian Alicia Barber disputed the rationale given by the city attorney’s office. A more recent deed, from 1966, supersedes previous restrictions, preservationists said.
“The memorandum unfortunately misrepresents the nature of our proposal for Evans Historic Park in several ways that we believe have influenced the legal decision … and we would appreciate the opportunity to discuss those discrepancies with you at your earliest convenience,” Barber replied. “(The memo) does not include acknowledgement or interpretation of the implications of the 1966 sale of Evans Park to the State of Nevada… We believe this deed contains information that is relevant to our proposal to move several structures to the park while allowing the property to remain in compliance with the 1926 deed restriction and would like to see it acknowledged and interpreted.”
There are other city parks that house buildings and areas which are not entirely open or accessible to the public, and city parks lease land for commercial operation or other activities, she added.
A meeting has been requested to discuss the issue. UNR wants to get rid of its homes to construct a new business building.
UPDATE: This article was updated to include links to supporting documents.
CORRECTION: The City Attorney’s response was from both Shipman and Towler, not just Shipman as originally reported.