The structure of Washoe County’s Citizen Advisory Board meetings will soon be replaced with a program that consists of neighborhood meetings to allow the public to weigh in on development still in the planning stages.
CABs are currently limited to advising on projects after builders have applied for development within unincorporated Washoe County.
Under the new Commission Support Program, developers would be required to hold neighborhood meetings before they apply for permits and licenses. The meetings will not be formal county-led gatherings restricted by the Nevada Open Meeting Law.
“The issues we run into in the CAB process with open meeting laws is that we are defined by a discussion around an agenda item,” Assistant County Manager David Solaro said. “Most of the time, development is ugly. It’s a process of give and take and communication. Sometimes that doesn’t happen in a structured setting.
“That’s why there’s the discussion around allowing the applicant to have a public meeting with the neighborhood that’s affected so they can gather that input and have that dialogue with the community and not be pushed into a potential open meeting law violation,” Solaro added.
Almost two-thirds of CAB members are close to being term-limited out of their appointed seats, and maintaining membership and conducting recruitment has been challenging. Also, Solaro said only 42% of scheduled CAB meetings since 2018 have been held. Since CABs focus solely on development, meetings are cancelled if an area has no planned projects.
South Truckee Meadows/Washoe Valley was the most active CAB, holding 73% of its scheduled meetings the past 3 1/2 years. Sun Valley, the least active CAB, held 14% of its scheduled meetings during that time frame.
Other CABs, along with how often each one had its scheduled meetings, are as follows: East Truckee Canyon, 21%; Gerlach/Empire, 40%; Incline Village/Crystal Bay, 54%; North Valleys, 56%; Spanish Springs, 54%; Warm Springs/Rural, 43%; and West Truckee Meadows/Verdi, 23%.
Commission Chairman Bob Lucey said a town hall-style meeting would allow more discussion between the public and developers.
“A dialogue could be more beneficial with those members of the community rather than having them try and do the dog and pony show in front of a CAB,” Lucey said.
Solaro said public feedback showed that conversations between the community and developers are needed. Information from such meetings would be provided to county commissioners.
“From there, meetings, once the information is captured, can be memorialized into an agenda item to more effectively have the conversation of things that were discussed—and the open meeting law would apply to that,” Commissioner Vaughn Hartung said.
After a vote to dissolve the current CAB structure, which is tied to development only, commissioners adopted resolutions to for CABs to assist in developing the Commissioner Support Program.
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.