By Steve Wolgast
Success! Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County have approved more development projects for homes than will be needed for the next 20 years! … a lot more.
The consensus population forecast is for the Truckee Meadows to grow by about 109,000 over the next 20 years, from a population of 451,000 to 560,000. Regional agencies agree that this is a realistic estimate. This growth will require roughly 42,000 new homes (referred to as dwelling units or “du”). These may be single family homes, condos, or apartments. But, the cities and county have approved development projects of a total of 70,000 du. This is almost double what is needed for the next 20 years, yet the county (in particular) is making every effort to approve new, additional development projects. For what?!
Here’s the issue. A lot of the approved projects are “zombie” projects that have had no activity on them for the last ten years. Many were approved before the downturn of 2008. Some will be revived in their original form. Some will be revised so that they need to be reviewed again by the county and the public. Some will have no activity for the foreseeable future. The unincorporated county projects are only on the books because of exceptional extensions granted by the county commission contrary to the intended 2-year deadline to complete all the details of the approved tentative plans. In their indefatigable efforts to be “the county of YES” (to development), commissioners have granted many extensions for projects that would otherwise have been cancelled. So, now we have this giant “overhang” of questionable projects.
We can’t plan our needs for future development with a giant volume of “iffy” projects on the books. Let’s cease to approve more extensions for old projects that have not received approval for their final plans. Further, let’s consider rescinding extensions on projects over ten years old that have not received final approval. Remember that many of the master plans for parts of the county have been revised in the last ten years so that older projects may not be in compliance with the current requirements. The plans could be re-submitted for approval and considered against the current master plans and development conventions. The compliant ones could expect approval. The non-compliant ones should be denied or amended.
One fact that came out of the recent Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Authority board meeting was that there is capacity to build 90,000 du that are compliant with the various master plans. Why should we ever accept development plans that require special exceptions?
Having such an excess of approved development makes no sense unless you believe the casual conversations that raise the possibility of 680,000, one million, or even two million population levels in the Truckee Meadows. If you live here, you probably didn’t want to live in Vegas, or Phoenix, or Anaheim with subdivisions and strip malls to the horizon. The excess development makes sense if this is our intended destiny. It’s scary.
Steve Wolgast is a candidate for the Washoe County Commission, District 2.