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The Jacobs Development Agreement needs more public input (commentary)


In the latest Barber Brief, Alicia Barber reviews the proposed Development Agreement between Jacobs Entertainment at the City of Reno, which she says has grown even more concerning since last week’s missive, thanks to the rush with which it’s being forward and the level to which decisions would be made out of public view.

By Alicia Barber

I’m posting this Brief with a bit of urgency. In my October 3 post, I asked the City to release the Development Agreement (DA) with Jacobs Entertainment that is scheduled for consideration at City Council tomorrow (Wednesday), October 13. Finally, on October 8, an incomplete draft was posted with the agenda, and after reviewing it, I’m even more concerned about how quickly it is being brought forward.

This Development Agreement would be a binding contract between the City of Reno and Jacobs Entertainment, with a proposed duration of 20 years. And yet the public has only been able to access a draft (missing key attachments) for five days before a possible Council vote. There has been no public workshop or discussions about it at any prior public meetings—not the Neighborhood Advisory Boards for Wards One or Five (where the purported development would be located), not the Planning Commission, not the Arts & Culture Commission, nothing.   

And there’s a lot to review and consider. I wrote about the initial Development Agreement that Jacobs introduced last spring in my April 13 Brief, and although this new version is a bit different than what was proposed then, much remains the same. I also explain there what Development Agreements are and how they are intended to formalize a give and take of mutual benefit. The ultimate goal is to reduce risks for a developer while providing desirable benefits for the jurisdiction.

In order to do that, you would expect such an Agreement to clearly explain what will be constructed on the property in question, and what those public benefits would be. But that’s not the case here. In fact, the Agreement specifies nothing that will be constructed on any of the 70+ parcels that Jacobs owns or controls. It doesn’t commit the company to any timelines for construction. What it does do is outline a wide array of fee deferrals, incentives, and rights to be granted by the City of Reno with no clear indication of how the City would benefit in return, and I can’t see why the City would even consider it without some substantial modifications.

Although there are not as many proposed elements as there were in the April version of the DA—and notably no Tax Increment Financing—there are some significant provisions here that would lock in a few things now and also lay the contractual groundwork for a lot more to happen in the future, potentially out of public view.  

What is in this new Development Agreement? Read More

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