By Bob Conrad and Jeri Davis
UPDATE Jan. 27: Reno City Council members expressed confusion about the StoneGate agenda item today and voted to move it to a later meeting. City Manager Doug Thornley apologized for not being prepared after council members raised numerous questions.
A special assessment district (SAD) proposal for the massive North Valleys StoneGate development is scheduled to be heard at Wednesday’s Reno City Council meeting.
The developer is seeking the creation of a construction district to get $36 million. It comes at a much higher price tag than any SAD the city has ever approved before. In fact, this would be the largest ever such district in Reno’s history, according to city staff.
The proposal has already drawn opposition.
“They’re going to try and wring as much money out of the public as possible—and it just shows that not only is this project an environmental disaster via the leapfrog sprawl of putting a city the size of Fallon on the backside of Peavine with all of that inherent traffic and climate change inducing pollution it will cause, but, it sounds like … they want to fleece the public financially as well,” Bob Fulkerson, with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said of the proposal.
The StoneGate development is planned for more than 5,000 homes on 1,700 acres — built over 20 years — adjacent to U.S. Highway 395, northwest of Reno. It has drawn criticism since its initial presentation to the council in 2016. North Valleys residents, as well as neighboring Californians, are generally opposed to the project, citing ongoing congestion problems plaguing the highway.
The StoneGate website says the developers are “pursuing alternative mass transit opportunities, such as a light-rail system on an existing rail line that would connect StoneGate to other residential areas, regional employment centers, and Downtown Reno.”
City staff said the risk would be minimal to the city and that the city has been working with the developer for two years to make the proposal possible.
“The risk would be if the developer just walked away from the entire development, and then … we foreclose on the property,” said Deborah Lauchner, finance director for the city. “And then we own property … way outside of town that we really can’t service very well. And then our recourse would be to sell it and try to recoup the money for the bond. The city itself is not responsible, but that would be where the risk would lie. So, we’ve really worked on tightening up those agreements to make the risk as minimal as possible.”
The hearing for the SAD was originally scheduled for Jan. 13, but it was removed from the agenda. The agreement between the developer and city, if approved, authorizes the “developer to construct and acquire certain improvements and transfer those improvements to the appropriate government agency; and authorize the financing of the projects through issuance of bonds payable from special assessments levied against assessable properties in the District via an Ordinance to be considered by Council.”