The Carson City Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend rejection of a proposed 78-home development in Combs Canyon between Timberline and Lakeview.
The 7-0 vote came after more than two hours of staff testimony, arguments by developers and opposition from area residents.
Community Development Director Walt Sullivan said staff recommended denial of the project because it doesn't meet Planned Unit Development standards, and developers have been less than cooperative in providing answers to staff questions - especially the "low-income housing" portion of the project, which he said neither city nor state housing planners could make sense of.
Commissioners uniformly agreed Lumos and Associates and land owner Steve Selinger have the right to develop their property. But they said the 78-home project on 82 acres was too dense, doesn't fit the surrounding neighborhoods, and required too many exceptions from city requirements.
"I totally understand the developer has the right to put something here, but I don't believe we have to bend and break the rules to approve it," said commissioner Bill Vance.
Connie Bisbee described the project as "inconsistent with the surrounding properties." Mark Kimbrough and Craig Mullet urged developers to redesign the project for lower density and to work with the city.
But several members also strongly objected to the letters from attorneys for the developers essentially threatening lawsuits if the city didn't approve the project. Those letters essentially argue that, because the project includes "low- income" housing, denying it would violate the federal Fair Housing Act and open the city to litigation.
That threat was made in person by Selinger when it became obvious the project was going down.
He warned the commission there have been "a multitude of cases" where cities lost legal battles, even though they followed their ordinances because the Fair Housing Act lets the federal government step in.
Commission member Bill Semen termed those comments "rude and obnoxious," and Kimbrough said he definitely took the letters and Selinger's comments as threats.
"It never helps to come in with what I felt was a threat," said Kimbrough.
And Kimbrough pointed out the developers' proposal includes language that would let them out of the low-income housing requirement if they can't get good financing for those units.
Staff pointed out in their presentation the houses in the proposed development were a third smaller than most of the surrounding neighborhoods, and instead of having lots averaging 3.8 acres in City View to two thirds of an acre in Timberline, they were on parcels averaging less than a fifth of an acre.
Audra Miller, a planner representing Lumos and Associates, said 78 homes on 82 acres is actually more than an acre per house.
But staff pointed out that includes all street and other public areas as well as undevelopable hillsides and a 25-acre tongue of land running up Combs Canyon on the other side of the road from the development.
The vote drew applause from a packed house at the Community Center's Sierra Room.
The recommendation will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors, which has the final authority to approve or deny the project.
-- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.