Bypass completion highlights busy year ahead in Carson City
December 31, 2016
Carson City will be busy, but much of the action will be behind the scenes in 2017.
Commercial and residential development is more active than it's been in a decade. But the various projects are in different stages, from conception to construction, and some of the bigger developments won't begin building in the coming year.
The downtown streetscape project is finished, but more is on the drawing board for Curry and South Carson streets, in addition to routine maintenance and the mid-year opening of the I-580 bypass at Highway 50 west and Highway 395.
"That's the 800-pound gorilla," said Patrick Pittenger, Carson City transportation manager. "That's a (Nevada Department of Transportation) project but it's going to have a bigger impact on Carson City roads because it dramatically changes traffic."
City government will continue to wrestle with how to fund road work, especially now that the gas tax indexing ballot measure did not pass in November. The gas tax would have added to the coffers an estimated $40 million over 10 years, according to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
Carson City Hall is undertaking other projects, including a years-long move to performance-based budgeting. It's a detailed process that mostly takes place internally and outside public meeting rooms, but has the potential to change how the city operates.
In the first five months of the city's 2017 fiscal year, through November 2016, building permit valuation totaled $52.6 million.
If that pace continues through June, it will be the most construction Carson City has seen since in a dozen years.
Last year ended with the Carson City Board of Supervisors approving plans for one of the city's largest new developments, the controversial Vintage at Kings Canyon, the over-55 housing and congregate care project on the Andersen Ranch between Mountain Street and Ormsby Boulevard.
After a year of public meetings and protest, little action will be seen there in 2017.
The developer is still raising money and the site has considerable civil work to complete, including flood mitigation, before breaking ground.
"The tentative map is good for four years," said Lee Plemel, director, Carson City Community Development.
The Lompa Ranch development, too, received initial city approval, in the beginning of the year, which allows a mix of neighborhood business and various types of residential housing.
The 250-acre site between 5th Street and Saliman and Airport roads also needs extensive flood mitigation work before construction starts.
But the city Planning Department has started the conceptual review process for plans to build 180 detached single-family homes there. The builder is Ryder Homes, a construction company with developments in Reno, Sparks and northern California.
"We gave them a ton of comments," said Hope Sullivan, Carson City planning manager.
The project will likely spend 2017 wending its way through the city permitting process, including needed approvals from the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
The planning department also is doing a conceptual review for an extended stay hotel at the corner of Clearview Drive and Curry Street, south of the Galaxy Fandango parking lot.
Next to that, on 19 acres west and north, a 310-unit apartment building is also undergoing review with the city.
Farther along in the process are three-story apartment buildings on Linda Kay Court and a 90-apartment building on GS Richards Boulevard, both of which have building permits under review.
Construction on Mills Landing, the 105 attached single-family development on State Street near William Street, and on Arbor Villas, a 147 attached single-family townhomes on Little Lane, could both begin construction in 2017.
"Things are moving rapidly," said Sullivan. "In the past, they'd sit on the drawing board."
And a site improvement permit has been issued for 31 single-family home lots in Silver Oak.
Already under construction are 64 additional units at the 175-unit Bella Lago Apartments on Airport Road, and Richards Crossing, the 39-unit apartment building on Jeanell Drive to be used for transitional housing for homeless veterans and others.
And the Schulz Ranch, the planned 324-home development in south Carson City, is building out. Lennar, the builder, had sold eight homes by early November and had another 30 houses under construction.
On the commercial side, the mixed-use project at 308 N. Curry St. and the Prestige Care and Carson Tahoe Health memory care facility on Mountain Street have already broken ground.
The city is planning in the first quarter to launch electronic filing of building plans and other documents needed to get building permits.
"They'll be able to submit and pay online without coming into the building department," said Nick Marano, Carson City manager.
The city recently implemented new software called Click2Gov which will simplify bill paying for residents and allow for other functionality such as reserving parks online.
In early 2016, the supervisors told staff to work on a solution for problems at some of the city's rundown motels used as residences.
Late last year, two of the motels, Round House Inn and the Whistle Stop Inn, across the road from each other on North Carson Street, were visited by code enforcement officials and a third is slated for inspection this month, said Marano.
"We want to make sure the residents have a safe and habitable place to live," said Marano. "Many are elderly or disabled."
Marano said current municipal code allows for sufficient enforcement but this month or next the board's meeting agenda will include an item to update the code, he said.
The city's departments had an end-of-year deadline to update their performance metrics, most of which are available online at carson.org. The update is a first step in the lengthy process to move to performance-based budgeting.
"I've been working on performance-based budgeting for eight years as mayor. It's not as easy as flipping a switch. A lot goes into it," said Mayor Bob Crowell.
Early in 2017, the board will hold a retreat, open to the public, as well as public open houses to discuss what are the city's priorities, said Crowell.
"Because where and how the city spends it resources should align," he said.
Also due from the departments was an inventory of their programs.
"We're getting a list of 200 to 300 programs the city is involved with. We want to raise the conversation from line item to program," said Michael Salogga, Carson City business resource manager.
The goal is to move to a new way of building the budget, which will require moving to new accounting software, a change the city needs to make because its current system is dated and losing technical support.
As part of that goal the city will spend at least the next year evaluating each program to determine its future — whether it could be done more efficiently or by a third party or whether it's necessary at all.
Salogga calls it a prioritization exercise and will include departments evaluating other department's programs.
"In the end, the city manager and Board of Supervisors will decide whether we still need to continue to do this program or that program," Salogga said.
The city's sales tax revenue is increasing, but Crowell said it's important to run a lean operation.
"Only way to get at these problems is to do more with more with less," said Crowell.
One of those problems is streets.
The city maintains 274 miles of roads and Pittenger, at a public debate on the gas tax indexing question before the election, said it would take $25 million to bring them all up to an acceptable level.
Crowell doesn't see a new revenue source for roads, which are funded by the gas tax, although he does think the 2017 Legislature will do something about the problem that plagues every county.
Some of the biggest road projects in 2017 will be funded by grants or, in the case of the freeway bypass, conducted by another entity such as NDOT.
Extension of the city's multi-use path from Northridge Drive to connect to the linear path by the Water Resource Recovery Facility this year is being funded by a federal grant, said Pittenger.
As is the biggest project, reconstruction of about 2.5 miles of Sierra Vista Lane, which is being done by the federal government and funded by a Federal Lands Access Program grant with 5 percent from the city.
The city will be spending about $1.5 million maintaining Carson City's most trafficked streets.
The specific projects will be decided by the Regional Transportation Commission in February, after the Board of Supervisors weigh in at its Jan. 17 meeting, said Pittenger.
Two of the biggest projects, though, will start to be designed this year.
Curry Street, between Musser and Robinson streets, is going to get the same complete streets makeover that Carson Street received, including utility work, new sidewalks and paving.
Once the I-580 bypass opens, probably in June, South Carson Street between Fairview Drive and Highway 50 west becomes a Carson City street.
Under the agreement between the city and NDOT, which is handing off $5.1 million as part of the transfer, the city must begin road construction on it by 2019.
But the design will take a long time as the city plans to significantly change the road, likely reducing lanes, due to the expected drop in traffic.
In the fall, a van which drives all of the city streets to photograph the roads will return, paid for my federal money.
The data collected is used to update the pavement management system software, which helps determine road project priorities.
In 2017, Public Works will start the process to select a contractor for Phase 2 of the ongoing rehab project at the Water Resource Recovery Facility.
The $8 million to $9 million project won't start construction until 2018 and will include covering the headworks, providing odor control, and electrical work, said Darren Schulz, director of Carson City Public Works.
Public Works is finishing up an update to its sewer collections master plan, last updated in 2005, and its project on sewer transmission pipes from the west side of the city to the treatment plant will be designed in 2017 and constructed in 2018.
Public Works will update the supervisors in February on data its collected via its asset management program on the city's assets most in need of repair and maintenance.
"We did a preliminary 'worst of the worst,'" said Daniel Rotter, Carson City engineer.
Public Works also will start planning for its next Waste Management contract, which may include single-stream recycling. The current contract with Waste Management Inc., expires in 2019.
A meeting to negotiate the city's water agreement with Minden officials should take place early in the year.
Carson City-owned water in Douglas County is delivered by agreement with the Town of Minden and in August the supervisors rejected a contract amendment that raised rates, saying it added costs to the rate formula not agreed to in the original agreement.
The two parties are expected to meet at least once to see if they can come to a compromise to avoid sending it to the courts for mediation.
In the meantime, the city is paying the higher rates.
The Senior Center rehab is on track.
In November, water damage was found in the joists under a small portion of the building and the city has been working to discover the cause and to design a fix.
Schulz said even if it's determined to be contractor caused, the city or its insurance will have to cover the repairs because it's past the deadline for collecting under construction defect statutes.
And, last but not least, the department will be busy with Carson City's surging development, which Public Works is heavily involved in managing.
"It increases staff time significantly. It's a unique challenge to keep up with inspections and plan reviews and continue to be a responsive service," said Schulz.
Development pays for itself through fees that go into a building fund, said Schulz, but the dilemma becomes when and how to staff up if needed.