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City Council approves 542 new affordable housing units, agrees to waive some business fees

By ThisIsReno

By Kelsey Penrose and Kristen Hackbarth

Reno City Council members on Wednesday approved fee reductions for two affordable housing projects relating to permit and sewer connection fees. 

The Copper Mesa Apartments project consists of 290 affordable multi-family units planned for a nearly 13.5-acre lot near Silver Lake and Red Rock roads in the North Valleys. Most of the units – 286 – will be set for residents at 60% of the average median income (AMI) and four will be for residents at 50% AMI. 

Sixty percent AMI for a family of four would be about $50,000. 

Council members had a number of questions about the affordability of the units, including the length of the lease and potential rent increases. 

Joey Launceford with Spokane-based Inland Construction, which is developing the project, said rents for one-bedroom units for a resident at 60% AMI would be $994 per month, which includes water, gas and sewer. A one-bedroom unit for 50% AMI would be $819 per month. 

Launceford added that the rent amount could go up if AMI were to be adjusted upward, however increases would be capped at 5% annually. 

The development will also have units up to four bedrooms, which city staff said is desperately needed in the Reno area. 

The planned apartments are located within one mile of an employment area, which based on affordable housing fee reduction standards and criteria adopted by the city council in 2020, makes the project eligible for an 85% reduction in sewer connection and building permit fees.

The total fee waiver would include more than $1.3 million in sewer fees and $241,918 in building permit fees. 

A site map for the new Pinyon Apartments, an affordable housing project planned for central Reno.
A site map for the new Pinyon Apartments, a 252-unit affordable housing project planned for central Reno. Image: City of Reno presentation.

Council members similarly approved reduced fees for the Pinyon Apartments project, a 252-unit affordable housing project planned for about three acres south of Moana Lane and west of Neil Road. 

The project is also eligible for the 85% reduction in sewer connection and building permit fees, totaling $1.16 million in sewer fees and up to $222,667 in building permit fees. 

Within the project, 236 units are reserved for residents at or below 60% AMI, eight units for at or below 50% AMI and eight units for 30% AMI. 

Council member Oscar Delgado said he was pleased to see the developer, the Los Angeles-based Lincoln Avenue Capital, working in the region to redevelop older properties and provide affordable housing. 

“My understanding is that they’ve also purchased other apartment complexes and multi-family units here in our community and have been doing an extensive amount of rehab work, which I appreciate,” Delgado said. “We’re bringing in new interested parties, new investors… they’re purchasing old, tired buildings and really pushing on making sure we’re taking care of those slumlords for many years that have taken advantage of many of our families.”  

The 542 new units approved between the two projects brings the total new affordable housing units the city has approved in the last several years to 1,009 with just over $5 million in subsidies. 

Previously approved projects include the Marvel Way, Springview, Washington Station and Orovada projects. 

City staff did not respond to how many non-affordable housing units have been approved during the same time frame. 

City to grant waiver to businesses still operating outdoors 

Council members also heard an update on the ReIgnite Reno Business Relief program that allowed businesses temporary regulatory relief throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergency declaration, and how those operations have now changed. 

Regulations for curbside pickup, outdoor operations such as restaurant seating on sidewalks, and cocktails to-go were included in the ReIgnite Reno waivers. The program was intended to keep the local economy afloat and help businesses continue to operate while following social distancing and other pandemic restrictions. 

The pandemic emergency declaration ended in May of this year, ending waivers for some of the business activities that have become normal since April 2020.

Under ReIgnite Reno waivers, businesses like Brewers Cabinet, seen here in May 2020, could deliver curbside orders to customers who called ahead. Those waivers were rolled back in May 2022 when the COVID state of emergency ended. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno

Lance Ferrato, the city’s business licensing manager, said some businesses are still operating based on the relaxed regulations. 

“What we’re seeing is an increase in outdoor business activity, particularly in the Midtown area,” Ferrato said. 

He asked council members for direction on permitting and potentially extending some waivers.

According to Reno Municipal Code, businesses are required to have outdoor dining permits and encroachment permits which allow them to operate in the public right of way, such as sidewalk seating. Encroachment permits are $2 per square foot annually plus an application fee, and outdoor dining permits are a $576 one-time fee.

Only three encroachment permits have been issued by the city, bringing in about $2,000 per year. 

“Activation of the street level is a goal. We want to see more people eating, drinking, entertaining, things at the sidewalk level,” Council member Neoma Jardon said. “To me the benefits far outweigh the revenue received from it. I think quite frankly we should be promoting it in addition to waiving it. We want to see more people on foot and bike and scooter enjoying our city.”

Mayor Hillary Schieve agreed, adding that it’s important to continue supporting small businesses.

“From DJ Trivia to these smaller businesses, they are the largest job creators in the country,” she said. “Anything we can do to help them be successful and look at them as partners – if they’re doing well we’re doing well.”

“Outdoor dining is an easy no-brainer. That certainly should be done,” added Council member Devon Reese. “We can also fix and clean up the issue with DJ Trivia and small microphone level events…. Packaged alcohol was one of the items we allowed and have now disallowed. I think this does a disservice to those businesses that invested in the infrastructure to make packaged alcohol.”

Council member Jenny Brekhus said she wanted to ensure the city was inspecting outdoor business operations and encroachments to ensure they’re not edging out pedestrian use of the sidewalks, especially people of varying abilities or with strollers. 

Ferrato said inspections and standards would continue.

Brekhus also said she wasn’t opposed to a future conversation about packaged alcohol – specifically the to-go alcohol sales permitted during the pandemic – but said it seemed in opposition to the alcohol sales restrictions put in place for downtown earlier this year. 

Council unanimously agreed for staff to continue with the temporary waiver of fees for encroachment permits through fiscal year 2023 associated with outdoor dining and other business encroachments.

Packaged alcohol, live entertainment and cannabis dispensary zoning requirements are all planned for the Aug. 17 council agenda.  

Amendments approved for Canyon’s Edge 

Council voted to approve three agenda items in connection with the proposed Canyon’s Edge Village, a 79-unit housing development on the eastern hills above Damonte Ranch High School. 

All items were in regards to amending the Master Plan land use designation and zoning for development of an additional 80 acres for Canyon’s Edge by changing zoning from Unincorporated Transition (UT) to 14 acres of single-family neighborhood and 66 acres of Parks, Greenways, and Open Space, as well as a zoning map amendment for 40 acres changing it from UT to the Canyons Planned Unit Development. 

The changes would add 80 acres and eight homesites to bring the development to 160 acres total. 

A map of the planned Canyon's Edge development on the eastern hills above Damonte Ranch High School in south Reno, Nev.
A map of the planned Canyon’s Edge development on the eastern hills above Damonte Ranch High School in south Reno, Nev. The blue and green box to the right is the additional 80 acres approved for inclusion in the project. Image: City of Reno presentation.

The Planning Commision recommended approval of the amendments but the decision is subject to approval by the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Commission and Regional Planning Governing Board. 

The Canyons Development was previously brought before the Reno City Council in March 2021, during which councilmembers Jenny Brekhus and Naomi Duerr voted against the development. 

At that time, public commenters opposed the development, citing concerns such as traffic and flooding.

Duerr said there was an agreement that no further development applications would be considered in the Virginia Range area until a horse management plan was put into place. 

“This, as with most wildlife issues, is a human created problem and I hope that we can all work together to mitigate it.”

As part of the planning, earlier this year local officials and community members met to discuss challenges with wild horses in the area and the encroachment of thousands of homes in the areas the horses typically roam. 

Despite voicing concerns about not having a horse management plan in place, Duerr said much work has been done in the area. 

Tracy Wilson, with the American Wild Horse Campaign and Wild Horse Connection, said the Canyon’s Edge development is in a major movement corridor for wild horses and blocks the path of horses to access water. 

“The only good answer here is an alternative water source that draws the horses up the hill to the northeast away from the encroaching development,” she said. “Water has always been our number one consideration in this conversation from the very beginning.

“This isn’t a horse problem,” Wilson added. “This, as with most wildlife issues, is a human created problem and I hope that we can all work together to mitigate it.”

Duerr said the developers have agreed to several accommodations, and added she went so far as to draft a written agreement for the developer to sign. 

John Krmpotic, a planner working with the developers, said he didn’t think it was necessary to put the horse management requirements in the planned unit development. 

“We’ve come a long ways. I think we all agree it’s not necessary to put some of these in the PUD because he’s made some very strong commitments to the horse advocacy groups, to the community, and he’s wanted to put that in the record,” Krmpotic said of developer Jim Dolan. “He wrote the $75,000 check and put it in the escrow account for revegetation, for range revitalization. That’s not talk. He did it.”

Council member Reese said he didn’t understand why the developers weren’t willing to sign an agreement regarding the accommodations they’d verbally agreed to. 

Krmpotic said many of the things community and council members are asking for have been accommodated in the PUD handbook. 

City attorneys, area homeowners and horse advocates said waiting another month for agreements to be signed stalls efforts that need to happen immediately. This includes the fencing they said would be part of the project as part of a solution to keeping horses away from roadways. 

A gate left open allows horses to leave the range and enter residential areas.
A gate left open allowed horses to leave the range and enter residential areas in south Reno in March 2020. Wild horse advocates say developers need to work to improve fencing and gates along their developments and help to find new water sources and diversionary feeding sites to support horses displaced by their projects. Image: Ty O’Neil

“We have got to do something to block the horses up on the mountain and get them to stop coming down to the fresh green grass, and the water and the other opportunities that they have to get carrots and apples and colic, which is the worst possible death you can give a horse,” Damonte Ranch Homeowners Association’s Jennifer Baker said. “I know we’re dealing with the Dolan family so my trust level is much higher than normal… 

“I’ve asked for some dream come true moments for these horses and these guys are actually stepping up and doing it without being forced to do it.”

Duerr read through the agreements with Dolan to read them into the record of the meeting. 

With those understandings, Duerr moved to approve the amendments and all council members voted in favor except Brekhus. 

Brekhus said she was concerned about not having the agreements written into any records. With what she called “a handshake deal,” there’s potential for the Dolans to sell the land to a future developer that wouldn’t keep those agreements.

“The irregular nature of approvals like this is just not the way a jurisdiction of 300,000 does it. It’s very, very concerning,” Brekhus said. 

Additional council business

Provided by the City of Reno and edited by This Is Reno

Reno Stead Water Reclamation Facility expansion. Council directed the director of finance to apply for a loan from the State of Nevada’s Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund in the amount of $45 million to support the Reno Stead Water Reclamation Facility expansion. The total project cost is estimated at $118 million, with a capital project split between the City of Reno (COR) at 70% and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) at 30%. 

The operating cost will be split evenly between COR and TMWA at 50% each. 

The expansion is currently under construction, and together with the American Flat Advanced Purified Water Project, will serve current and future development in the North Valleys. 

North Valleys Satellite Operations. Council directed staff to move forward on the purchase of two properties located at 9390 and 9446 North Virginia Street for $2.87 million for a satellite city corporation/maintenance yard to support North Valleys operations. 

The purchase is being funded through the Sewer Enterprise Fund/Street Fund. 

The properties combined are just over four acres with existing utilities and access, has topography suitable for development, and are centrally located with proximity to U.S. Highway 395, Stead Boulevard, Lemmon Drive and Red Rock Road. 

Edison Way and University Lift Stations Replacement Projects. Council awarded a contract to Farr Construction for the Edison Way and University Lift Stations Replacement Project in the amount of $3.9 million which will be funded through the Sewer Fund. 

Council also approved a consultant agreement with Shaw Engineering for the project  not to exceed $552,380. 

Its staff said the stations must be rebuilt based on the deterioration to each that has occurred over the years.

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