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Sales and abandonments of City property (commentary)


By Alicia Barber

Dr. Alicia Barber

Like finding a $20 bill underneath your sofa cushion, Reno City Council is back with a bonus meeting this coming Wednesday, July 28. They’ll return to alternating weeks with the Planning Commission after that, but in the meantime we get a packed meeting just one week after the last one.

There are several development-related items on the agenda, which you can view along with staff reports, presentations, and attachments, here. Two of the most notable involve Jacobs Entertainment and the proposed apartment building at 700 Riverside Drive—both projects involving sales and abandonments of City property—and I’ll briefly review some of the others after that.

Selling City-owned parcels to Jacobs Entertainment

Most perplexing to me are the proposed changes to Jacobs Entertainment’s options to purchase two City-owned parcels. To be blunt, the proposed revised terms don’t seem at all in the public interest—and there’s no explanation of why the original terms for these options should be changed at all.

Both options appear twice on the agenda—as Items C.4 and C.5 and again as items L.5.1 and L.5.2—because they have to be reviewed and approved by Reno City Council and again by the Council sitting as the Reno Redevelopment Agency. One parcel is at 290 Keystone Avenue and the other (identified as O West Second Street) is on West Second Street, just northwest of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral.  

Under the original agreement, Jacobs Entertainment (or their subsidiaries, who are the entities named) had two years to purchase each parcel. And now, time’s up.

The deadline to exercise the option on 0 West Second Street is July 31, 2021, and it seems to me that time was actually up for 290 Keystone a while ago, since the option for that one was originally adopted on February 27, 2019.

At one point, the company had a potential buyer lined up to build a residential and retail project on the Keystone parcel, as reported by Downtown Makeover in February 2020, but by February 2021, that sale had fallen through.  There has never been any reported plan for the parcel on West Second Street.

So now the company’s options on these parcels are expiring (or expired), they’re not ready to buy them yet, and they want to make another deal.

How much would Jacobs pay for them?

This is where things get odd. The staff report is recommending that the City adopt two Resolutions—one for each parcel—to extend the options on each one for another three months (okay, fine) and to set the price of them (this is the actual wording) “at a purchase price of $____.” The Resolution also includes a reminder that the City has the discretion to sell its property for less than market value and without a public auction.

The Resolution does specify that the fair market value will be established by appraisal before Jacobs can exercise the option to purchase, but not that the purchase price will be that value. In case that wasn’t clear, the staff report for each item states that “The proposed revisions would discount the previously agreed upon purchase price.”

Read the rest at The Barber Brief.

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