Reno City Council members on Wednesday discussed potential bill draft requests (BDRs) the city might support during the 2023 Nevada State Legislative session, and made decisions regarding a change to the city charter and affordable housing.
Council could select up to two BDRs for the upcoming legislative session, which will need to be approved at a public meeting and submitted by Sept. 1. The 82nd Nevada Legislative Session is scheduled to begin Feb. 6, 2023.
The first proposed BDR, 22-1, includes changes to the Reno City Charter, which were previously discussed at the Council-Charter joint meeting last week. Amendments include the elimination of gendered language throughout the charter; a repeal of changes scheduled to take effect regarding the number of wards within the City of Reno; requirements for a chief equity officer appointment; and the addition of green infrastructure projects to the list of project types that could be authorized under local improvement law.
The second proposed BDR, 22-2, includes expanding an existing property tax exemption program to include affordable housing projects with certain regulatory agreements in an effort to remove barriers for affordable housing development within the city, and ensure federal affordable housing grants are optimized to build and preserve affordable housing units.
While the council may select up to two BDRs to go before the session, they are not required to submit any, and may opt instead for the city’s legislative team to spend time focusing on other priority issues.
Council member Devon Reese recommended going forward with the city charter amendments to eliminate gendered language and repeal changes to wards, but did not support the amendment for the chief equity officer position or the green infrastructure.
“I think [amendments three and four] are both excellent but not fully ready to go – to make an action on,” Reese said. “[Amendments] one and two will be my recommendation.”
Council member Jenny Brekhus said that in her 10 years spent on the council, the city charter has been changed twice and she did not want to see a third change.
“I’m not really prepared to go down for a third change in this point in time,” Brekhus said. “I think the look is, ‘Oh here comes Reno again.’ […] Let a little more contemplation come into this.”
Council member Naomi Duerr said the biggest issues to her constituents revolve around housing.
“[Issues such as] how to make things affordable, how to make things fair, how to encourage and support existing residents to continue staying here,” Duerr said of legislation she’d support. “Many of them have had to move away, consolidate with families out of town, move into mobile homes – there are many challenges. I would really like us to have a seat at the table to make sure that whatever is being discussed at the legislature will work for us and really make a change.”
The council voted to submit a BDR for city charter changes with the gendered language, ward changes and green infrastructure, but removed the third amendment for a chief equity officer. Instead of a second BDR request, they opted to direct their efforts to advance other affordable housing legislation.
Council members Brekhus and Bonnie Weber said they could not support the motion. Weber said she was opposed to the second amendment regarding ward changes.
Moana Springs Pool begins construction
The groundbreaking of the new Moana Springs Recreational Complex’s aquatics facility was held Wednesday, which led to a discussion posed by Council member Brekhus, who questioned staff on the naming of the facility.
The pool will be called the William N. Pennington Moana Springs Community Aquatics and Fitness Center.
“It is definitely a mouthful,” said Jaime Schroeder, director of Parks and Recreation. “What we will work with the Pennington Foundation on is how we will put the lettering on the building.”
The William N. Pennington Foundation agreed to donate $9 million to the city to construct the new aquatics facility in the form of a grant with a city match.
In 2012, council voted to name the entire parcel of property the Moana Springs Recreational Complex based on the history of the land and in recognition that a pool would eventually be built on that site.
Within the parcel, individual pieces have been renamed, such as the Richard Jay soccer fields and the George Hamilton playground.
“Obviously naming has come up a lot,” Brekhus said. “We haven’t done a policy yet. It’s been on the to-do list. I think this one needs a little more thinking. What I don’t think is good for the public is to have confusion going forward.”
“This is a day to celebrate this community, the aquatics community, and the work they have done to get us to this moment,” Reese countered. “I want to make sure that for my part, […] the gift of the Pennington Foundation is life-changing, it’s transformational – this is a foundation that speaks to the commitment of this legendary northern Nevadan who had such an impact on this community, and the communities that surround us.”
“Frankly, this [new facility] wouldn’t have happened without the foundation,” Council member Neoma Jardon added. “They are incredible partners to have, and I am so thankful for them.”
The council voted unanimously to accept the $9 million grant.
Farewell to Neoma Jardon
Council member Jardon was honored by the council and city staff with a five-minute video presentation and heartfelt goodbye following her announcement of resignation after eight years of service.
“We will miss you tremendously,” Mayor Hillary Schieve said. “I know this can be a difficult job, but it’s truly been an honor to serve with you. You have taught us so much about grace; you are a class act.”
Most of the council echoed the mayor’s sentiments, congratulating Jardon on her service and leadership she has shown within her role.
“In my mind you’ve shown us how to do [this job] with class, grace and style and I think you’ve become known for that,” Duerr said.
Most of the council and gathered city staff donated “Barbie coral pink” t-shirts in honor of Jardon as they watched a slideshow detailing her accomplishments on the council.
“Your word, when it’s shared, matters,” Council member Oscar Delgado said. “It carries a lot of weight.”
Jardon’s last meeting will take place on Friday before she will take up the new position of executive director for the Downtown Reno Partnership, replacing the outgoing Alex Stettinski.
“I feel like you’re just part of my family and this new job – I’m really excited because you are the perfect fit,” Weber said. “I can’t say enough about you as a role model. Many of us do look to you as a role model.”
“I appreciate the model that you’ve been to me and to others,” Reese added. “You’ve been a true friend, and I think that, oftentimes, is the true measure of a person.”
Council member Brekhus did not provide comment.
“I will miss my colleagues, I will miss the community members and the issues they brought to us, and they made us so much better – they made me better as a person, and they made our city better,” Jardon said. “I will forever be in immense gratitude to everyone I’ve worked with. The heart and soul of this city is the employees.”
Reese was nominated as pro tem in Jardon’s absence.
American Flats sewing project approved
Council voted to approve the beginning of the process for a $45 million sewer bond to finance the American Flats Sewer Project, which will serve the North Valleys communities for effluent disposal.
The American Flat Advanced Purified Water Project (APWF) is a joint project with the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) to provide effluent disposal for the Reno Stead Water Reclamation Facility’s expansion, which is under construction.
The city proposed to issue sewer bonds up to $45 million to finance the project and complete the expansion.
The estimate for the project is nearly $118 million, with a capital project split of 70/30 between the City of Reno and TMWA. The city’s share of the project is estimated at nearly $83 million, and operating costs will be split 50/50 with TMWA.
Brekhus voted against the item, but did not say why. She asked staff if they were going to need to bond again in the next 12 months. Staff said they would not. She also questioned the function of the General Obligation Revenue Bond, which is a sewer revenue fund backed by property taxes.
The item will come before the council next to review an intent to bond. The first step in issuing the bond is obtaining approval from the Washoe County Debt Management Commission, which staff will now undertake.
The council voted to approve the city’s fleet purchase program for the 2023 budget year to purchase vehicles, equipment and associated outfitting for up to $5 million.
The fleet purchase includes 83 vehicles including snow plows, police motorcycles and vehicles, SUVs and trucks, vans, trailers, and a loader and mini-excavator.
The replacement vehicles will be received and placed into service within nine to 18 months after their purchase.
Councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the program.
The council unanimously approved adoption of an ordinance amending the Coral Academy Specific Plan District to allow for public schools in addition to private schools. The planned site, in northwest Reno, has a master plan land use designation of suburban-mixed use.
Council also unanimously approved an ordinance amending a zoning map from large-lot residential at one unit per acre to multi-family residential with 14 units per acre across a two-acre project site northeast of Allen Glen Drive. The site has a land use designation of mixed neighborhood.
Finally, council voted to adopt an ordinance amending the Reno Municipal Code to add 40 acres to the Canyons development. The 80-acre site is located east of Mine Shaft Drive on the hills above Damonte Ranch High School.
Council members discussed the Canyons project at length at their last meeting where the developers committed to providing a trail for wild horses, permanent watering locations and access for diversionary feeding. Community members and homeowners in the Damonte Ranch area expressed concern with the current location being inhabited by wild horse populations.
Council member Brekhus opposed the ordinance.
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.