Cordevista decision postponed until May

A decision on a controversial master-plan amendment and zone change request to allow a housing and commercial development will have to wait until at least May.

Reno developer Blake Smith wants to develop 8,600-homes as well as commercial and office projects on about 11,000 acres of property in central Storey County, about four miles northeast of the Virginia City Highlands. To do so he must be granted a master-plan amendment and zone change for the land from special industrial to mixed-use.

However, Storey County Planning Commissioner Lydia Hammack said that since the issue was of major importance to all residents of Storey County, not just those in Lockwood and the Virginia City Highlands, where town meetings have been held by the developer.

The rest of the commission agreed, and the issue will be discussed at the 6 p.m. May 3 meeting in Lockwood.

Smith's company had sent a letter to Lockwood residents informing them of anApril 19 Planning Commission meeting in Lockwood discussing the development, which came as a surprise to commission chairman Doug Walling.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet in Virginia City on April 19, but Cordevista is not on the agenda.

Smith said that the Storey County master plan provided for new growth and mentioned a balance between jobs and housing. He said the Cordevista development was intended for workers at Tahoe Reno Industrial Park.

"Storey County has little land left to balance housing and jobs," Smith said, adding that most of the county is to steep for development and said the county was "cherry picking tax revenue" from the industrial development without providing services for the workers.

He also offered to build his water infrastructure in such a way that if the Virginia City Highlands were in need, it could tap into the Cordevista system. He declined to say where the water was coming from due to ongoing negotiations for water rights, but said he would not use any groundwater.

Smith also said that when he did obtain water he would have to request a change from the state water engineer to change usage from agriculture to municipal, and acknowledged that the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and Churchill County officials routinely file protests to water changes.

Smith also proposed a Storey County Community Foundation paid for by Cordevista residents via a $250 transfer fee that will pay for infrastructure improvements to the Highlands, flood control in Lockwood and aid to preserving the petroglyphs, wild horse habitat. It would also be available for grants to the Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority, the Fourth Ward School and Piper's Opera House.

However, the offer didn't seem to mollify the crowd of more than 200 people who spilled outside the community room at the Virginia City Highlands Fire Station and had to listen on speakers outside the building. All local residents who spoke indicated opposition to the project.

"I'm more against it than ever," said Highlands resident Janice McElhaney, "They won't give us information on water and where they're getting it. They know it will hurt our horses. We're going to fight it harder now."

State Sen. Mark Amodei, who is also an attorney for Virginia Highlands LLC, Smith's company, echoed concerns that other counties were paying to provide services for TRI workers, saying there were regional implications to actions taken by Storey officials, and other counties had to provide services for TRI workers.

Amodei said he did not see annexation of the industrial park as a possibility, but added that Washoe and Lyon counties, both with much larger populations, could take some kind of action legislatively for sharing TRI tax revenue.

But Planning Commissioner Larry Prater said that Storey County did more than its share to benefit the region.

He said 80 percent to 90 percent of the disposable income of Storey County residents was spent in other counties who have shopping centers, auto dealerships and, thereby creating tax revenue for those counties, and workers at TRI will do the same, as well as pay property tax in other counties.

"Despite this guilt trip they're trying to lay on us, we have the landfill in our county," Prater said. "We have three power plants and another one on the way. All Truckee Meadows' sewage effluent goes into the Truckee River at the county line."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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