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Brekhus accused of blocking Jacobs access to community meeting (updated)

By ThisIsReno

By Carly Sauvageau

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve on Wednesday said she wanted for the community and Jacobs Entertainment to be able to work together on plans for redevelopment of a large swath of west downtown. The call for cooperation was part of Reno City Council review of alley abandonment requests that are part of plans for Jacobs’ proposed Neon Line District during a Jan. 12 City Council meeting.

Council members approved the abandonments at West Second Street and the Church Lane right-of-way (ROW) and at Ralston and West Fifth Street in a 6 to 1 vote.

Council member Jenny Brekhus was the lone no vote.

In deliberation on the West Second Street and Church Lane abandonment, Council member Neoma Jardon asked Jacobs Entertainment’s attorney Garrett Gordon if they had tried to give a presentation to the Ward 1 Neighborhood Advisory Board (NAB), which is represented by Brekhus, for any of the Neon Line Development plans.

Jardon said Jacobs representatives had presented to her Ward 5 NAB and committed to return quarterly with updates.

Gordon, who said he lives in Ward 1, told council members he had attempted to present to the Ward 1 NAB. He said he was emailed by Brekhus’s liaison that he was denied and removed from the NAB meeting agenda by Brekhus.

“I don’t think she participated in the process and it sounds like, disappointingly, she continues not to participate in a project being built in her ward.”

“It’s been frustrating,” said Gordon. “She refuses to meet with us. She refuses to let me go to her NAB and make presentations and get input from her NAB members. And she refuses to provide any input on this development other than in this venue over a Zoom call or City Council meeting or in the papers….It’s really frustrating to work in your ward when you refuse to meet or engage whatsoever.”

Council member Devon Reese expressed his disappointment and said he was going to seek legal counsel about the ability of a council member to deny a developer to attend a NAB meeting within their ward. 

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus
Councilmember Jenny Brekhus.

During the meeting Brekhus didn’t respond to Gordon’s accusations, but followed up with This Is Reno to clarify details about the NAB presentations.

Jacobs Entertainment representatives did present on the alleyway abandonment for West Second Street and the Church Lane ROW at Ward 1 NAB’s Oct. 11 meeting.

Brekhus said Gordon was denied an opportunity to present details for the Neon Line Development at the Nov. 8 NAB meeting because they “requested AFTER the adoption of the development agreement ordinance to present. This was not for the purpose of input because clearly, the Council had acted.”

City Council members approved the Jacobs development agreement ordinance at its Oct. 13 meeting.

“Whenever they have items headed toward approval–administrative, Planning Commission or Council–they are and will be on in the Development Projects section of the agenda [for the Ward 1 NAB],” Brekhus said.

In her comments during Wednesday’s council meeting, Brekhus said she was concerned that the developer would secure the abandonments and not progress on developing the land. She cited Jacobs’ withdrawal of a tentative map for 63 condo units on Arlington Avenue on Tuesday, one day after the developer’s representatives touted the plans during a town hall meeting. 

Gordon said the map was withdrawn because the developer changed the plans from condos to apartments, which don’t require the same city approvals.

“I’m not seeing the value in abandoning this now based upon the finding of harm,” said Brekhus. “I see…a pattern of harm by this applicant in this area, which is removal of about 600 residential units without rebuilding,” said Brekhus, referring to the motel demolitions by Jacobs Entertainment with no sign of building in the vacant lots.

Duerr agreed that the demolitions had caused harm.

“I don’t think demo permits should be occurring in absence of building permits where we end up with these large empty blocks,” Duerr said.

Brekhus asked for amendments on the development agreement with JacobsEntertainment requiring the developer to commit to plans for developing parcels within a specific time frame in exchange for the alleyway abandonments. If plans didn’t materialize within the required timeline, the alleys could revert back to city control, she said.

Rendering of the Arlington Condos project, included with the preliminary architectural plans submitted to the City of Reno.
A rendering of condos proposed by Jacobs Entertainment for Arlington Avenue and Second Street. The developer has withdrawn the tentative map for the project and moved to build it as apartments instead.

“How about a claw back for the public interest if [Jacobs’] projects don’t materialize?” Brekhus asked.

Gordon said the alleyway abandonments were necessary to be able to build structures that would meet the required minimum building density of 45 units per acre.

“We couldn’t fit a 45 dwelling unit density on the little lots as they currently exist…We need more space in order to comply with [zoning requirements],” said Gordon.

Usually it is the council member that represents the ward in which the action is happening that makes a motion to approve. Brekhus refused to make the motion saying if she did it would be to deny the abandonments.

Reese, as the at-large council member, instead made the motion to approve the alleyway abandonments.

“I don’t think this is the time to re-litigate the development agreement,” Reese said before he cast his vote. “If there were things that should have been in the development agreement that were not, I think council member from Ward 1 should have offered those. I don’t think she did that. I don’t think she participated in the process and it sounds like, disappointingly, she continues not to participate in a project being built in her ward.”

Other council business

Public comment focuses on homelessness, COVID testing

A common topic in the meeting’s general public comments was Reno’s homeless population. Members of the public called upon the council to reopen the Record Street shelter as

Other shelters fill up during the harsh winter months.

Some expressed concern for homeless women who have to choose between being harassed in shelters and risking their lives by sleeping on the street. The Nevada Cares Campus offers limited space for women, and other shelters that accept women are often full.

Another citizen requested that the free COVID testing, as well as homeless shelters, be more accessible to those with disabilities. They said that many free COVID testing centers are drive-through, and some people with disabilities are unable to transport themselves to the testing center, specifically when the buses aren’t running.

City planning developments

The 7th editions of the Regional Road Impact Fee General Administrative Manual (GAM) and the Regional Road Impact Fee Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) were passed by the city council and the Regional Transportation Commission.

Impact fees are fees made to developers that help raise funds to support public infrastructure.

The 7th editions of these policies included updates in the list of CIP projects, more growth within the area of Reno north of Interstate 80, and an updated appeals process for fee-payers.

There are also plans to replace the lining of the sewers at Swope, Akard, Eleventh Street, and Van Ness and Ellendale. A new lift station will be put in the intersection of Lear and Moya to accommodate the existing water flows as well as the planned development of the North Valleys. The current lift station is working at maximum capacity.

Reno ReLEAF program receives $10,000 donation

A donation from Kinder Morgan, one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America, has furthered the ReLEAF Program in planting trees in downtown Reno. The new trees will be planted near the Biggest Little Dog Park and the Locomotion Plaza. 

Updated: This story has been updated to include follow-up materials and comments from Jenny Brekhus provided after initial publication.

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