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SPCA lawsuit against city, Reno Iron Works advances in court

By Bob Conrad
Reno Business Weekly

By Bob Conrad

Attorneys for the City of Reno last week responded to a lawsuit filed in June by the SPCA of Nevada and said the city hasn’t done anything wrong in its approval of a development next door to the animal shelter. 

The non-profit organization, which promotes animal welfare and pet adoptions, has its facility off of Dandini Boulevard. Reno Iron Works wants to build a 40,000-square-foot factory next door.

SPCA executive director Jill Dobbs said the city in May approved the Reno Iron Works facility without proper noticing and community input on the potential impacts. 

The nonprofit alleged “a large metal fabricating facility next to the SPCA-NN is incompatible with SPCA-NN’s existing use of their property and will negatively impact SPCA-NN’s ability to provide quality care and rehabilitate vulnerable pets,” among other claims.

SPCA sued the city and Reno Iron Works the next month. The case is in Washoe County Second Judicial District Court. 

“SPCA-NN did not actually receive the required notice of the Planning Commission meeting, which precluded us from full participation at the March 2 meeting to oppose the project or to research and formulate a more appropriate and thorough opposition statement to the project,” Dobbs wrote in a sworn declaration. “SPCA-NN did not receive the courtesy notice [from the city].”

The city, through Deputy City Attorney Holly Parker, denied any wrongdoing. 

“SPCA cannot ignore the extensive evidence presented in the record and considered by City Council during the hearings regarding the impact of the project on SPCA and the animals it shelters,” Parker wrote. “SPCA concedes it received actual notice of the Planning Commission meeting and that its Executive Director, Jill Dobbs, appeared at the meeting and provided public comment regarding how the proposed project would impact SPCA.”

The city further argued the property is zoned for industrial use. Reno Iron Works is being defended by attorney William Peterson.

“It is impossible to argue that compatibility was not considered when, in fact, one of the Councilmen who voted against the project…stated that the use was suitable for the surrounding area,” he wrote.

SPCA alleged animals at its facility will be subject to noise and increased stress as a result of the Reno Iron Works factory. 

SPCA Executive Director Jill Dobbs speaks during a May 11, 2022 Reno City Council meeting as council members decided whether to finalize approval for a Reno Iron Works facility next door to the SPCA shelter.
SPCA Executive Director Jill Dobbs speaks during a May 11, 2022 Reno City Council meeting as council members decided whether to finalize approval for a Reno Iron Works facility next door to the SPCA shelter.

“No analysis of what the SPCA-NN does or the impacts on its operations and property is provided in the City Staff’s report, despite the fact that SPCA-NN is one of only two neighboring properties to RIW’s proposed facility,” the lawsuit notes.

Council members in April told both parties to work together on a solution. 

Reno Iron Works offered to SPCA $100,000 to build a sound wall and to limit the amount of truck traffic to and from its facility. SPCA found a property east of Sparks it suggested for Reno Iron Works’ factory.

The parties failed to find common ground. 

“Both parties worked hard to reach an agreement and keep this out of the council chambers again, but unfortunately we are just too far apart,” Dobbs said in May.

SPCA’s attorney filed a motion in June to prevent the court’s Judge Kathleen Drakulich from hearing the case.

“Petitioner SPCA-NN is informed and believes that the Honorable Kathleen Drakulich is the aunt of J.D. Drakulich. J.D. Drakulich, as a member of the Reno Planning Commission, heard evidence, deliberated, and voted upon the matter being presented for review in SPCA-NN’s June 6, 2022 Petition for Judicial Review,” SPCA’s attorney Luke Busby wrote. 

(Disclosure: Busby is representing This Is Reno in two public records lawsuits against the city of Reno. He did not comment on this case.)

The city’s planning commission approved the facility, but SPCA appealed the decision to the Reno City Council. The council denied the appeal in May.

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