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Daybreak Developers Sue City Over Denied Development (Subscriber Content)

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
Daybreak development location. Google Earth image.
Daybreak development location. Google Earth image.

The developers of Daybreak, a south Reno housing development, sued the City of Reno last week after the Reno City Council denied the development in a near-unanimous vote last year. Council members said they were concerned about the project because it is in a flood plain. The developers, in their lawsuit (read it below), said the council’s decision in November 2018 was discriminatory, arbitrary, and capricious.

In short, the suit alleges that the City applied strict standards to the development, a project that was said to have met city staff approval, and passed the Reno Planning Commission, but Council members denied the plan anyway.

Attorney Michael Burke, writing on behalf of his client, California-based Newport Pacific Land Company, said that “according to the City Council, Daybreak’s applications were denied because the City’s current master plan, Reimagine Reno, prohibits development in a floodplain.

“There are several problems with this position. First, Reimagine Reno does not apply to Daybreak’s applications, because Daybreak’s applications were submitted under Reno’s prior master plan which does not contain any such language.

Second, denying the applications will not prohibit development in a floodplain, as existing entitlements already allow future development within the floodplain, only without the mitigation proposed by Daybreak. Third, portions of the of the Bella Vista and Butler Ranches have already been developed, notwithstanding the factor that these properties are also in the floodplain. And fourth, the City has never applied this interpretation to any other development in the City.”

The ‘Missing Middle’

Brian Bonnenfant, of the University of Nevada’s Center for Regional Studies, said that the project meets the region’s identified housing needs.

“I’m sure they had met with (city) staff and thought they had it all in place,” Bonnenfant said. “It’s mostly just a flood issue. I think (the City Council) is using that as a spearpoint to tackle those issues.”

The developer insisted Daybreak would reduce flooding problems than what’s already occurring on the property.

“The City’s own conduct is clear evidence that development is permitted in a floodplain under Reimagine Reno,” Burke wrote.

Taxes generated from the project would pay for Daybreak over time, Bonnenfant added.

Daybreak is a nearly 1,000-acre project in southeast Reno adjacent to Veteran’s Parkway. A mix of single-family and multi-family would fulfill the region’s need for the “missing middle” housing.

“There is a noticeable lack of higher density ‘Missing Middle’ housing potential that can help fill the gap for workforce and lower-income households,” according to a regional housing study by the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency.

Such housing could comprise “single-family housing on smaller lots, cottage housing, duplexes, townhouses, and apartments, and could represent part of the solution,” TMRPA reported.

Here’s how Daybreak was proposed:

Daybreak’s proposed numbers.

More than 4,500 residences were planned as a mix of residential and commercial properties while 32 percent of the total acreage was proposed for open space. The project was promised to go above required flood mitigation, address feral horse concerns, and had a remedial action plan with the state to address mercury contamination.

Nearby Residents Opposed

Numerous residents protested Daybreak.

“I am absolutely concerned about this project,” Michelle Bay wrote to the city in opposition to the project. “The land proposed for this project is in fact wetlands and will only lead to flooding issues like Lemmon Valley. And the increased traffic is already a concern for Rio Poco (Road) with the addition of the Southeast Connector.”

The Reno Firefighters Association said the development would require a new fire station.

“The augmentations to the Fire Department station and equipment in this proposal are needed, but they are needed to serve existing needs, not just the future Daybreak development,” the group wrote as part of public testimony. “We don’t take a position as for or against specific developments; we just want to ensure that any considered development includes the necessary public safety components.”

The Daybreak developers noted in their lawsuit that they could proceed with developing parts of Daybreak anyway.

“Portions of the Daybreak development are already master planned, zoned, and entitled for residential development,” Burke wrote. “The Butler North (planned unit development) would allow Daybreak to construct and develop more than 900 homes in the floodplain.

“Because the PUD has already been approved (with even less flood mitigation), Daybreak could begin construction on these homes at any time.”

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