Mayors: Cities working together to address common development plight

Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson, left, Reno Vice Mayor Neoma Jardon, Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell and Fernley Mayor Roy Edgington, speaking, provide insight at a Certified Commercial Investment Members of Northern Nevada panel about how their cities are addressing Northern Nevada’s future in land development.

Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson, left, Reno Vice Mayor Neoma Jardon, Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell and Fernley Mayor Roy Edgington, speaking, provide insight at a Certified Commercial Investment Members of Northern Nevada panel about how their cities are addressing Northern Nevada’s future in land development. Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

RENO — Overcoming an antiquated property tax system while trying to keep up with growth could be among Northern Nevada’s chief challenges for development and infrastructure, local business officials heard last week at a mayors’ panel discussion.
The Certified Commercial Investment Members of Northern Nevada Chapter hosted officials representing Reno, Sparks, Fernley and Carson City to discuss the booming growth in commercial real estate development and the connections the local jurisdictions have made in providing the funding, utilities, transportation needs or other necessities to improve quality of life.
The panel discussion was moderated by First American Title regional sales manager Cory Miller in Reno and focused on Northern Nevada’s needs to conserve and develop federally-owned land.
Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell, Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson, Fernley Mayor Roy Edgington and Reno Vice Mayor Neoma Jardon gathered at the Renaissance Reno to speak on their cities’ current efforts in land, housing, utilities, roads, mental health needs and homelessness.
“We suffer with maintaining things,” Jardon, who took Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve’s place due to an emergency, said of Reno. “The pie’s not getting any bigger at any local level. We’re not making widgets. The tax structure does need to be fixed. I’m hopeful the Legislature will take that difficult decision on.”
The breakfast was an opportunity to discuss significant projects impacting regional work happening across city lines on shrinking budgets and inflation increases.
“It’s never going to change,” Lawson said. “We have zero power in the Legislature. And it’s sad our legislators from Las Vegas in Southern Nevada control the state.”
And as residential and commercial properties extend outward, considerations to build upward are becoming real, the mayors agreed, and that sort of development isn’t very appealing to most who have roots in the area. The proposals coming along with them also are bringing real costs and challenges.
Last week, the Reno City Council approved an agreement with Farr West Engineering to begin design work on its 2023 Talus Neighborhood Sewer and Street Rehabilitation Project at a cost of $698,078 from the city’s Sewer and Street Fund. The project includes about 2,600 feet in sewer main replacement and 396,000 square feet of aged sidewalks, provide pedestrian or bicycle safety improvements and add new pavement and striping.
But to add a sewer plant as the more efficient long-term solution in the region is the “ticking time bomb” that no one wants to talk about even as the area grows, Miller said.
Helping most of Fernley’s workforce that constantly leaves its own city to work elsewhere is a delicate balance for the market, Edgington said.
“We redid our zoning,” he said. “We’ve approved a couple of projects we’ve moved forward with on exit 46.”
But in Fernley, some of the greatest challenges come in finding the “right synergy” and in educating the public about the processes that occur on and off the scenes, he added.
“It’s just trying to get an understanding to develop and find the right kind of development,” Edgington said. “You can do anything you want as long as ‘it’s not in my backyard.’”
Asked how the city has been dealing with its constant growth when so many have been resistant, he said a code can’t be created to fit everyone or everywhere.
In Sparks, Lawson said, he must think about how to best maximize his resources, which means densification, and for now that means bringing in a “gamechanger” lands bill. The bill refers to the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act meant to transfer federal control of undeveloped land to local authorities and allow the Regional Transportation Commission to build a highway going through undeveloped land northeast of Sparks. Lawson said it’s necessary to allow Sparks, which uses 75% of its general funds on its emergency services, to avoid building new fire stations and staffing them at a cost of $3.5 million every year.
“If you keep densifying, you don’t have to have as many police,” Lawson said. “That’s smart growth.”
The RTC will connect La Posada Drive in Sparks from Interstate 80 to the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center and widen I-80 to Vista Boulevard, Lawson said.
In Carson City, Bagwell, who often is asked about what would be done with the Ormsby House, said it will take “someone who has vision” to develop the property and encouraged the audience to return to her in six months on its status. She said she was willing to meet with anyone interested in it since it holds “huge synergy” for the community.
Bagwell said Carson City worries about bringing more schools to the 157 square miles of land available to develop.
She also spoke of transforming the former Silver State Charter High School on Fairview Drive into the Carson City Community Counseling Center, which will become a 50-bed inpatient facility to help people battling substance abuse and provide 24-hour staffing, individual and group therapy, full meal service and trauma therapy, among other services.
Bagwell said offering such facilities will alleviate aggressive behaviors on Carson City’s roads, including drive-throughs, especially from transient people from Douglas or Lyon counties.
While the mayors said they’re very proud of certain accomplishments in each of their accomplishments, they said being able to budget for what each city needs now is a long shot.
“We are not going to get back to where we need to be,” Edgington said. “You can demand I put two people in a police car, but I don’t have the budget for that. We just can’t do that. … We’ve never had handicapped playground equipment for kids. We can’t have merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters for them to burn their little fannies on.”
Jardon said the cooperative nature of the cities has been helpful, but it takes having relationships to make any progress.
“We just can’t close doors,” Jardon said. “We have to be realistic about the future and grow up, not grow out. Not everybody wants to live in a high rise. You have to be realistic about what everybody wants. … But we’re getting to the point of capacity, so we have to not stick our heads in the sand about it, either.”


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