Editor’s note: This story will be updated later today.
The Reno City Council on Wednesday unanimously rejected a proposal that would have folded more than 1,000 acres of property in the Sierra foothills into the city’s jurisdiction.
The proposal was a request from landowner Evans Creek LLC of Roseville, Minn., which sought to shift jurisdiction over 1,019 acres at South McCarran Boulevard and Manzanita Lane from Washoe County to City of Reno jurisdiction.
Frank Thompson, an attorney for Evans Creek, emphasized the northern end of the property is already bounded by developed land.
And he said plans for additional suburban, single family homes would be “high end infill,” and help alleviate the housing shortage in the Truckee Meadows.
“The reason for that is the annexation is a very logical extension of Reno city limits,” Thompson said. “It will provide much needed housing in this very well documented housing crisis.”
Council members were unswayed.
Although city staff said the annexation could have netted the city $9 million to $31 million in new tax proceeds over 20 years, it wasn’t enough to outweigh council members’ objections to the idea.
Councilwoman Naoimi Duerr, who made the motion to reject annexation, said there wasn’t enough information about potential future development to assess fire and financial risk development might bring.
“I don’t have the confidence and knowledge about really what is planned here,” Duerr said.
Specifically, Duerr said she would have preferred the request for annexation had included more detailed development plans, even though such plans aren’t required by law at the annexation stage.
According to a presentation from city staff, it’s likely the land could legally support about 600 homes after accounting for steep slopes and other development constraints.
“Without a slope analysis we don’t have that actual number,” said Angela Fuss, Reno’s acting community development director.
Duerr said she worried potential disputes over water issues and easements between the landowner and
That would be a problem, she said, because by annexing the property the city would be taking responsibility for fire protection, which could be costly given the land’s location in an area of high risk for wildland fire.
“I would be hesitant to move forward until those issues have been resolved,” Duerr said.
Council member Devon Reese echoed Duerr’s concerns.
Although Reno and Washoe County and fire agencies in other jurisdictions routinely help each other in response to wildland fires, the cost burdens can be higher for a jurisdiction where a fire starts.
“I don’t know we have the financial resources to be able to serve an area this large and for which there have been historical fires,” Reese said.
Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus objected to the annexation because, she said, it isn’t needed. Brekhus disagreed with Thompson’s assertion that development could reduce the region’s housing crisis in any way.
She cited city research that showed Reno already has a surplus of land suitable for the sort of single-family, large lot homes that match the zoning envisioned for the Evans Creek land.
The shortage, according to Brekhus and Fuss, is in land available for multi-family, affordable housing.
“It is offering the supply we don’t need,” Brekhus said of the Evans Creek land.
The vote to reject also reflected the will of the majority of people who submitted written public comments, which included 55 opposed to annexation and one in support.
Although no one from the public spoke in opposition to annexation at the meeting on Wednesday, residents did voice opposition during an earlier council meeting on the topic and during a virtual town hall hosted by Duerr.
Residents expressed concern development could reduce access to public land adjacent to the proposed annexation.
The area is rife with official and unofficial trails. The popular Ballardini Ranch Trail is located on Washoe County land just to the south of the Evans Creek land.
Although that trail wouldn’t have been obstructed by development on the Evans Creek land, there were concerns development could disrupt potential future connections to other trails and limit access to U.S. Forest Service land.
“That would really cut off access to forest service land a lot of people use on a daily basis,” resident Shirley Atkinson said during the virtual town hall.
Benjamin Spillman covers the outdoors and environment in Northern Nevada, from backcountry skiing in the Sierra to the latest from Lake Tahoe’s ecosystem. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.
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