Daybreak developer ‘not going away’ after Reno City Council rejects 4,700-unit housing project
RENO, Nev. — Days after the Reno City Council rejected the proposed 4,700-unit Daybreak housing project in a 6-1 vote, the project developer told the Northern Nevada Business View that his company is “not going away.”
“I still believe it’s a fantastic project and a project that would greatly benefit the city of Reno and its currents and potential citizens,” Chris Bley, principal at Newport Beach, Calif.-based Newport Pacific Land Co., said of the planned development on the former Butler Ranch in southeast Reno. “And I disagree with how the project was looked at by the council.”
In coming to its 6-1 vote on Nov. 28, the council found that the flood risks on the 980-acre Daybreak site were too high to overcome.
The area, which is on a FEMA-regulated floodplain, was severely flooded in 1986, 1997 and 2005 and saw near-flood levels in 2017.
“From my perspective, the project had a fatal flaw, and that is that they’re proposing to construct thousands of homes within a floodplain, and some of those homes in the critical floodplain,” Councilwoman Naomi Duerr told the NNBV. “A different way of saying that is: location, location, location. The project has a very challenging location.”
After all, the city’s revamped master plan, which was approved roughly a year ago, highly discourages development in Reno’s floodplains.
Bley, however, said “highly discouraged” is not “thou shalt not,” adding that he’s confident the Newport Pacific Land Co. team addressed all of the flooding concerns by going above what the mitigation requirements are for the site.
The city’s ordinance currently requires developers to remove a shovel of dirt for every shovel of dirt put into the floodplain. Daybreak developers had planned to remove 1.25 shovels of dirt for every one added to increase the available flood storage.
“We’re not negating that it floods — we can’t stop rain,” Bley said. “We’re saying, ‘OK, it floods, so why don’t we create a better, bigger bathtub for the flooding so it affects people upstream to the north even less?’
“We thought upon completion of this project we would leave a better place for the citizens of Reno than they have now.”
Bley added that the biggest issue facing the city of Reno is attainable housing. The Daybreak in-fill development planned for a broad spectrum of housing, including single-family homes, townhomes and multifamily residential units.
Despite the need for housing, Councilwoman Duerr said the city council’s first job is public safety.
“Do you as a city official allow people to move into an area that you know is unsafe?” Duerr said. “It has been demonstrated time and time again this area has flooded every decade.
“I do have the highest level of respect for both the engineers and the planners,” she continued. “They have conceptualized a beautiful project that hits a lot of important things on how we would like development to proceed in our area. In this case, for me, it could not overcome the danger of living in the floodplain to both the existing residents and the new residents.”
With their Daybreak project rejected, Bley and his development team are back to the drawing board.
“We’re regrouping and figuring out what’s next,” Bley said. “I believe that the city council made a big mistake. But we own the land and we do plan on coming up with a project — one that people will be proud of.”
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.