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County Commission Overrules Planning Commission, More Housing Approved for Lemmon Valley

By Bob Conrad

Prado Ranch North location. Google Earth image.

Prado Ranch North location. Google Earth image.

The Washoe Board of County Commissioners yesterday approved a new development in Lemmon Valley. The vote by commissioners Bob Lucey, Vaughn Hartung, and Marsha Berkbigler overrides the Prado Ranch North’s denial by the Washoe County Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission originally denied the application because it didn’t meet five out of 10 standards that would make it a viable project. Following this denial, just enough commissioners disagreed, allowing the project to proceed. They voted to override the Planning Commission’s denial but with modifications.

The 155-acre project is slated to put four units per acre off of Lemmon Drive, an area still blocked with barriers between Swan Lake and nearby homes from flooding that started two years ago. Of the 155 acres, 19 will be kept as open space. Unlike nearby neighborhoods, the new development will not allow livestock or horses.

HESCO barriers still line Lemmon Drive from last winter's storms. Image: Bob Conrad.

HESCO barriers still line Lemmon Drive from last winter’s storms. Image: Bob Conrad.

“The applicant has volunteered certain items that are above minimum code requirements, and subsequently, in those cases, we added written conditions … that are memorialized for the tentative map action,” said county engineer Dwayne Smith. “There is a portion of the project that is located in the FEMA flood plain. A tentative map is conditioned to meet FEMA, Washoe County drainage requirements, (and) that includes things like volumetric mitigation.”

Smith testified that the applicant addressed project concerns, agreed to improve public infrastructure, and met code requirements. This includes addressing sewer capacity at the Reno-Stead Wastewater Treatment Plant facility. Water service will have to be annexed by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority in order to provide water to the development.

The applicant will have to undergo additional processes to mitigate development impacts, including flooding. Portions of Lemmon Drive are proposed to be raised, Smith said, “for the benefit of the community … if there are water level rises in the future.

“We can effectively provide barrier protections that we see today with HESCO in the form of a roadway, (but) there are still details to be worked out,” he added.

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey.

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey.

The City of Reno owns Lemmon Drive, which will need to be widened to meet traffic requirements. Hartung said he wanted a bike path, parts of which are still flooded, moved and maintained as part of the project.

Smith said that the development could resolve flooding and traffic issues.

“It will help address a significant portion of Lemmon Drive,” he said. “There’s probably not a funding strategy that would allow that to occur if it wasn’t for these projects that are coming in now. That doesn’t solve the entire problem, but it would lessen the burden either on the state or on the agencies … if we found ourselves in the same situation in the future.”

Lucey agreed.

“A developer has come in here discussing a possible way forward but it doesn’t seem like there’s much reception for that,” he said. “So I’m at a loss. What do we do to make a change?”

Residents Opposed

Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman.

Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman.

North Valleys residents vehemently spoke against the project during the lengthy, contentious hearing. They cited traffic concerns, Swan Lake’s water quality, ongoing flood impacts, and impacts to local schools.

“While the North Valley’s CAB and the Planning Commission seek sensible plans considering the issues raised by residents, it appears that the county commissioners are making arbitrary and capricious judgments overturning the unanimous decisions of the subordinate bodies in order to favor developers,” wrote Steve Wolgast on the Washoe Residents for Appropriate Planning website. (Wolgast is running against Lucey for his south Reno commission seat.)

Resident Hector Campos said his house would have to be raised if the project is approved.

“That whole corner was under water,” he said. “They’re going to put me in an even deeper problem. (I’m) completely against the Prado development.”

Resident Tammy Holt-Still chastised the commission.

“Do you want to be in a legal fight again because your staff and this developer wants to do what they want to do when they want to do it?” she said.

Commissioner Jeanne Herman, who represents Lemmon Valley, voted against the project; Commissioner Kitty Jung had left the meeting at the time of the vote.

“This plan doesn’t compute at all,” Herman said. “It’s wrong in every way. I agree with the Planning Commission on this item. I think we ought to have a moratorium on building in the North Valleys.”

The earliest homes would be built is two years from now, the developer said.

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