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City plans fresh look at Verdi-area development rules

By John Seelmeyer
Published: Last Updated on

Reno officials will be taking a fresh look at the rules that govern development in the Verdi area, a move that comes a few weeks after frustrated planning commission members voted to deny plans for a 676-home development just west of Somersett.

But it’s highly unlikely — impossible, really — that the fresh look will be completed before the City Council hears an appeal from the developer whose plans were scotched last month by the Planning Commission.

It’s a situation that’s been cooking for nearly two decades, ever since Reno annexed the Verdi-area territory in 2001. Back then, Washoe County sued the city over the annexation. A settlement of that case brought a set of court-approved rules for development of the area — rules that are different from the rules that cover any other development anywhere in the city.

It wasn’t a big deal when the economy tanked and homebuilding stalled, but now longtime developer Fred Altmann, working with property owner Stan Lucas of Long Beach, Calif., seeks the city’s OK to build 676 homes on about 950 acres just west of the Sierra Canyon neighborhood in Somersett.

Neighboring residents oppose those plans, citing concerns about everything from fire protection to increased traffic to protection of open space.

There are lot of interpretive issues, and they come up on project after project after project.”

The Planning Commission voted unanimously on Dec. 18 to deny the project — which is known as Mortensen Ranch — because it didn’t see how the plans squared with the unusual court-ordered rules that cover development in the Verdi area.

The developers’ appeal of that decision is scheduled to be heard by the City Council on Jan. 22. Opponents are on the streets, collecting signatures that call for council members to affirm denial of the plan.

In the meantime, Councilwoman Neoma Jardon has asked the city staff to clarify the rules covering Verdi-area development.

The clarification will be wide-ranging, involving everything from traffic to water service, and it will cover more than just the Mortensen Ranch area. In all, about 2,700 acres are covered by the unusual development rules, and Jardon said Wednesday that confusion is just as widespread.

“There is a lot of grey,” she told other members of City Council. “There are lot of interpretive issues, and they come up on project after project after project.”

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