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Council preview: Jacobs Entertainment alley abandonments on hold, e-scooters and an NV Energy settlement

By Bob Conrad

Jacobs Entertainment would like the city to abandon alleyways in anticipation of its Neon Line District developments. Two agenda items originally planned for tomorrow’s Reno City Council meeting would do just that. 

City Manager Doug Thornley withdrew the agenda items late Monday to allow for public input on the proposal.

A Neon Line Community Meeting is planned for Jan. 10 to answer questions and provide additional information on Jacobs’ project. Thornley said the meeting could not be held sooner due to the city’s noticing deadlines for public meetings.

Alleyway abandonments are when the city relinquishes maintenance and ownership of the alleys to the adjacent property owners.

“The Jacob’s Entertainment land holding companies own or have options to purchase the majority of the block bound by Ralston and Arlington Avenues and West Second Street and the railroad right of way,” city staff noted. “The abandonment request facilitates redevelopment of a downtown city block. The applicant has submitted an application for a tentative map to establish 64 residential condominium units on the corner of Arlington Avenue and West Second Street.”

Reno historian Alicia Barber agreed the agenda items should be removed. She cited the Oct. 27 council meeting wherein Jacobs’ representative Garrett Gordon agreed to hold a public meeting prior to Jacobs projects coming back to the council. That was in relation to the outcry about the development agreement the council approved at the meeting.

Part of Jacobs Entertainment’s Neon Line District on Ralston Street between 3rd and 4th streets, under construction in 2019.

“After Mr. Gordon agreed to the plan, Councilmember [Naomi] Duerr directly asked City Manager Doug Thornley if it were doable, and he replied that it was,” Barber wrote as part of public comment in advance of tomorrow’s meeting. “Councilmember Reese then followed up with his own confirmation of the importance of such a public town hall before Jacobs brought any additional requests to City Council.”

Gordon said at that meeting the abandonments were in the works.

“We want to be a good partner too with the community with the transparency and the town halls,” he said. “I think maybe it’s a good, maybe, pause button in the event this [development agreement] gets approved before we come back to you. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

Reese, in response, said people expressing concerns about the Jacobs development agreement “have political agendas and are disconnected from reality and want to promote that agenda.”

He added, however, that Jacobs Entertainment’s level of engagement with the community should increase because of concerns expressed.

But in response to Barber’s written comment this week, Reese implied she was misleading people with “hidden agendas and misinformation. We live in a complex time and we all have a role in making certain that the public has accurate and complete information that is not discursive, is free of bias or conflict, and is made to unite rather than divide.”

E-scooters on deck

E-scooters may be in Reno’s future. The council is scheduled to hear tomorrow a proposal for the company Bird to operate dockless, electric scooters in Reno. The company promises geo-fenced controls including slow zones, no parking areas and zones where scooters are not allowed. 

A city staff presentation indicates scooters “are cool.” The presentation notes the partnership could generate $81,000 in yearly franchise fees if the agreement is exclusive to Bird.

The city previously entered into a similar agreement with Lime Bikes that was ended after the council and mayor chastised the company for failing to be “a good partner.” Lime then disposed of its bikes at a local recycling center.

NV Energy owes the city $781,000

Also scheduled will be an approval for a settlement between the city and NV Energy for nearly $800,000. This Is Reno reported about the concerns two years ago

At that time, it was brought up that miscoded addresses led to NV Energy owing the city a quarter of a million dollars. The reason: The city’s property annexations created a disconnect between the city and the power company.

An audit found NV Energy franchise fees were not paid.

“The audit review also found errors in the process for sharing updated address lists following annexations,” a staff report notes. “This also resulted in incorrect or missing payments to the City. After review and consideration of the audit, NV Energy has proposed a settlement of $781,024 to address the unpaid franchise fees within the statutory limitations.”

Village on Sage Street. Image: Community Foundation.
Village on Sage Street. Image: Community Foundation.

96 housing units proposed 

Council members are considering a loan to grant of up to $500,000 for the purchase of two modular buildings that would provide for 96 additional housing units at The Village on Sage Street. The additional units would add to the existing 192 single-occupancy units already in use at The Village.

City staff report that units at The Village are consistently full and a wait list is maintained. The affordable units are for individuals 18 or older and for low-income individuals who are working minimum wage jobs or have income from social security or disability. 

The two buildings are additional surplus from the initial purchase source and city staff said they would be able to integrate into the existing facility. The purchase of an adjacent parcel of land would also be necessary to accommodate the facility’s expansion.

In a staff report, officials said if approved, “the new units would not be stand alone and would be able to share in the existing amenities, administration and security creating an economy of scale.”

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