Commissioners to Decide Ballot Questions

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The public may get a chance to weigh in on the twin issues of planned growth and water supply this November. Tuesday, the Washoe County Commission may decide on a request for ballot questions on annexation policy and tying development to available water.

The debate is decades old and has had a number of flash points along the way, but the proposal to annex the Winnemucca Ranch area to Reno may have brought things to a head. This rural setting is a 35 mile drive from downtown Reno, but according to the regional plan it falls within Reno's sphere of influence and some day there may be thousands of homes here and the sign will read Reno City Limits.

A proposal to speed the day stirred both sides of this debate. At present there's a lot of empty space between here and Reno proper and current law allows annexation of contiguous property only. A proposal to change the law and allow what critics call "leap frog" annexation...essentially allowing an urban island in this rural setting came before the 2007 legislature. It failed, but the issue isn't going away.

Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance says instead of orderly, concentric expansion, allowing "leap frog" annexation would create an urban island far from the rest of Reno and unfairly burden present Reno residents with additional infrastructure expenses.

Fulkerson and others argue, we will run out of water before this development and others can be fully built. They want an advisory question on the annexation issue and one tying development to available water and if water importation is needed, they want the public to be part of the discussion and decision.

The Builders Association of Northern Nevada will oppose the ballot questions tomorrow arguing this is no way to plan a community's future. There are complex
technical issues involved, they say, best left to professional staff and not to a public vote.

At least one commissioner thinks the public should be heard anyway. Jim Galloway says a vote would indicate the public's values on these issues. The commission meeting starts at 2 tomorrow afternoon. The ballot question proposals are item number 17, probably about an hour or so into the meeting. The public can comment then...or at the beginning of the meeting.