On Tuesday, City of Reno Spokesperson Jon Humbert canceled a planned Wednesday morning media tour of a temporary homeless shelter being constructed on East Fourth Street.
The new temporary location is necessary because the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority has asked the city to vacate the Reno Events Center, where it has been housing unsheltered individuals since the beginning of COVID-19 lockdowns ordered by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in mid-March. A small, private event to be hosted by The Row is planned for the space sometime in the near future.
Also that afternoon, Second Judicial District Court Judge David Hardy ordered work to stop on the temporary tent structures. This was in response to a $90,000 lawsuit filed Monday against the city and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority—which owns the land upon which the temporary shelter is being constructed—and the Community Homelessness Advisory Board, which voted to approve the new emergency shelter location on July 20.
The suit was filed by Scott Peterson, owner of Wells RV & Boat Storage located next door to the site. The suit alleges that the City of Reno did not follow zoning laws or proper protocol for notifying surrounding property owners in its fast-tracking of the project.
In an affidavit filed as part of his lawsuit, Peterson said, “I am confident that if the shelter is allowed to operate on TMWA property, the Wells RV & Boat storage business will be completely destroyed.”
On Tuesday evening, the Reno Gazette Journal reported the city would fight the lawsuit.
Humbert told This Is Reno on Aug. 5 that the city is “complying with the judge’s ruling to halt operations at the temporary shelter” and plans to “remain with clients at the Reno Events Center as best” as it can until a restraining order hearing that is scheduled for Aug. 11.
“We believe the need is strong for our emergency plan,” Humbert said. “Any other option would potentially force more than 150 people to leave safe shelter.”
The new temporary shelter was set to open Wednesday evening. The order staying its opening is contingent upon a $10,000 bond with the court from Peterson.
In the order, Hardy wrote that the court “acknowledges the many arguments Wells Properties makes, including a faulty public process, lack of TMWA authority to host this use, the absence of permitting and other approvals, trespass, and overburdening a limited-use easement.”
The City Attorney’s office also issued a statement Tuesday, as quoted by the RGJ, in which City Attorney Karl Hall said, “We plan to strongly defend our plans for emergency shelter for our most vulnerable. As our city combats this pandemic, it is our duty to do the best we can to help our neighbors survive. Lack of housing shouldn’t be a death sentence in the streets.”
Reno City Councilmember Devon Reese responded to Peterson’s lawsuit on Twitter, writing “As they say, we will see you in court” and that “mean spiritedness” of Peterson’s lawsuit would not be well received.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.