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Zoning change approved at joint city, county meeting


Tammy Holt-Still speaks during public comment at a joint Reno City Council and Washoe County Commission meeting. Photo: Tabitha Mueller

By Tabitha Mueller

Reno City Council and the Washoe County Board of Commissioners held a concurrent special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5 to review a master plan amendment for just one acre of land. Officials approved the designation of a roughly one acre piece of land located off of Lemmon Drive and Buck Drive from “Medium Density Suburban/Suburban Residential” to “Commercial.”

After voting 3-1 to approve the master plan amendment, the Washoe County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the regulatory zone amendment on the same piece of property from “Medium Density Suburban” to “General Commercial” use for case number WRZA19-0001.

The Washoe County Planning Commission and Reno City Planning Commission recommended approval of the amendments after a joint public hearing May 7, 2019.

Both Reno City Council and the Washoe County Board of Commissioners were required to review the amendments because the property under scrutiny lies within the Reno-Stead Corridor Joint Plan, which falls under the jurisdiction of both Washoe County and the City of Reno.

“We’ve got certain areas where Washoe County and the City of Reno abut each other [and this piece of property is in one of those areas]…So both boards need[ed] to come together,” said Dave Solaro, interim county manager.

The owners of the one-acre property, Alan and Debra Squalia, represented by Christy Corporation, applied for the amendment.

According to Washoe County’s planner Chris Bronczyk’s opening presentation, the change from a residential lot to a commercial one will not have negative impacts on the land.

“There’s not any additional negative impact [as a result of the change]. It’s just a swap,” said Bronczyk.

The one acre parcel of land discussed for rezoning. Image: Washoe County

Mixed support for zoning changes

Tammy Holt-Still, a concerned citizen, showed the council an infographic about how high-density lots increase storm water runoff and voiced her concerns about polluted runoff from the property post-commercialization flowing into Swan Lake.

“High density changes saturation levels and increases high runoff,” she said, adding, “This is my only dog in the fight.”

Background information on the action from the City of Reno noted that commercial uses of land in the area was favored by 71 percent of respondents to a community survey conducted as part of the creation of the Reno-Stead Corridor Joint Plan. Suggested commercial uses included office parks, restaurants, and hardware stores.

Amendment passes, despite hiccup

Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler motioned to approve the master plan amendment with Commissioner Vaughn Hartung voting for the amendment and Commissioner Jeanne Herman voting against, citing unease about runoff.

Commissioners needed a supermajority to pass the amendment, so they called Commissioner Bob Lucey, who had been following the meeting virtually. He voted for the amendment, and it passed with a majority 3-1. Commissioner Kitty Jung was not present.

Holt-Still voiced her objection to Lucey’s vote because he was not physically present in the room, and told the assembled council, “I will be taking this to the AG’s office.”

A colossal waste of time for a one-acre piece of land.”

A regional plan update adopted in October that would have placed this amendment change exclusively under Washoe County’s jurisdiction did not apply to this meeting, which was scheduled before the approval of the update.

Berkbigler alluded to this regional plan update when she noted how busy all the members present were, and said that the joint meeting was “a colossal waste of time for a one-acre piece of land.”

“In the past, we’ve had areas where the City Council will make a decision on a parcel of land in Washoe County where those people that are in Washoe County have no say. We’ve changed things a little bit with this regional plan update, which gives voice to the actual property owner within the jurisdiction that they’ve elected their elected officials,” explained Solaro.

The amendment changes for the one-acre property now go to the Regional Planning Commission for approval.

“With both boards approving this, I would assume that it would be approved again at Regional Planning,” Solaro said.

Updated: This story has been updated to indicate that the statement that the zoning would have no additional negative impact was made by Washoe County Planner Chris Bronczyk.

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller is a freelance writer and multimedia journalist based out of Reno, Nevada. She is fascinated by storytelling, place, and the intersection of narrative and data analysis and holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography and English and American Literatures from Middlebury College. When she is not tracking down a story or listening to podcasts, you can find her hiking Nevada’s gorgeous terrain, perusing local bookstores, playing Quidditch, and discovering Reno’s hidden stories.