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Jumping the gun with Jacobs (commentary)


In the latest Barber Brief, Alicia Barber discusses the “frustrating lack of information on key proposals and projects” including the upcoming Reno City Council’s planned review of a Development Agreement with Jacobs Entertainment, the contents of which aren’t clear.

By Alicia Barber

Happy fall, everyone, and apologies for the extended time between posts. In addition to my historical consulting work, I teach an online graduate course in Nonfiction Writing for ASU twice a year, but with the fall session ending, we’re back in business.

The Reno City Council meets next on October 13. The agenda and materials aren’t yet available, but at that meeting and in the weeks to come, the Council—and by extension, the public—will be faced with some major decisions that could have an enduring impact on the appearance, function, and image of significant portions of Reno’s city center, and who those spaces will be built and branded to welcome.

I write a lot about the need for transparency in government, for the public to be informed about important decisions being made by those who represent them. And that means a lot more than just conducting business in public meetings where residents have an opportunity for a three-minute comment. It also means providing the public with the information they need to understand and weigh in on those deliberations well in advance of them. After all, it’s hard for City Council to represent the public they were elected to serve if that public is left without critical information until late in the game. Which brings me to my first topic.

The Jacobs Entertainment Development Agreement

The news just dropped on Friday (October 1) that a new Development Agreement (DA) between Jacobs Entertainment and the City of Reno will be reviewed by City Council on October 13, which is right around the corner. Unfortunately, there is still no information about what that agreement will contain. Public notices were just posted in the vicinity of Jacobs’ properties on and around West 4th Street this past week with only the barest information about it.

If you can’t read it, the description says, “A request for a Development Agreement between the City of Reno, Reno Real Estate Development, LLC, and Reno Property Manager, LLC regarding the Reno Neon Light District–an area in downtown Reno bounded by Keystone Street to the west, West 5th Street to the north, West Street to the east, and West 2nd Street to the south. The proposed agreement provides financial incentives to the developer and sets development standards for properties within the Reno Neon Light District.”

We’ve been waiting to see this Development Agreement since April, when Jacobs presented an earlier draft to City Council, something I wrote about in my April 13 and May 2 posts. Notice of its review at the October 13 City Council meeting also appeared in this week’s Current Development Projects email, with a link that takes you to the Accela website, where project applications are posted.

The place to look for a new application is under “Attachments” (which you can see when you click on “Record Info”) but there’s no new information there, just technical descriptions of the 78 parcels that Jacobs says they own or control and an application from February relating to their special events space. And back in August, City Councilmember Naomi Duerr clearly conveyed her understanding to Jacobs rep Garrett Gordon that any Development Project proposed by Jacobs should first be discussed in a public workshop (you can view that exchange here).

So what gives? Read More

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