StoneGate development stonewalled at Reno City Council

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) The Reno City Council says more answers are needed before it can approve a housing development in Cold Springs.

The developers for the StoneGate project went before the council Wednesday, November 15, seeking a zoning change for the land that is currently zoned for industrial use. The developers want to build 5,000 housing units over the next 20 years. But the plan faces opposition, most loudly from people currently living in the area.

"You're backyard is our front yard and we don't like it," Danny Cleous told the council

"I know something needs to be done, but maybe you need to look inside first before you stretch out," Tammy Holt-Still added.

The developers say the project will be able to provide the city with 15 police officers and 12 firefighters, and will add $168.5 million dollars into the general fund. But despite staff's recommendation to approve a Master Plan amendment, the council said there were several concerns it couldn't ignore.

"I think we've got a lot of untied knots, and we've got one major issue," Councilman Paul McKenzie said. The development is planned for his ward.

Opponents raised concerns about fire response and water rights, but their biggest concern at Wednesday's meeting was the traffic in the area.

"It's already a nightmare to drive here," Cleous said. "It's been a nightmare since the '80s to drive into town from out there in the North Valleys.

People who live in the North Valleys told the council it can take them more than 30 minutes to travel 5 miles during the morning commute into the city.

"In 5 years of this 20-year project, we're going to have 3,500 of those 5,000 stuffing into that road that can't handle the traffic it's got today," McKenzie said. "I can guarantee we cannot put 5,000 houses on that road today not knowing what is going to happen in the future because we don't know."

The development would be built in 5 phases, and the planning commission recommended the phases be built as NDOT works to improve traffic flows in the area. But the developers say that's not realistic given NDOT's project priories change every few years.

"You're basically restricting StoneGate to this [plan] which they have no control over," Angela Fuss, project planner for StoneGate said. "If StoneGate wrote a check tomorrow to NDOT for two billion dollars, could we be guaranteed this would happen? No. It shouldn't be something that one specific project gets put on them as a condition and nothing else in the community has that same requirement."

The project is willing to do other things to help with the traffic problem. One proposal to ease congestion is retrofitting current railroad tracks in the area for a commuter train that would end at the 4th Street RTC station.

"It would be a very good solution for potential relief," John Griffin with the StoneGate project said. "It wouldn't be the only relief."

McKenzie said if he was voting solely based on the presentation at the meeting, he would vote no. But he says he has spoken with the developers who have expressed a willingness to compromise.

"I know there is a willingness to try to figure out solutions to the problems we have with this to move forward," he said. "And I think it is important we give them the opportunity to see if we can resolve some of these issues before we make that final decision."

In a 6-1 vote, the council continued the discussion to January 10, 2018. The developers will have to present agreements with fire, parks, water service and sewer service. But city staff will also have to return with a more robust traffic analysis, including the impacts of the proposed project on the freeway system and transportation alternatives.