Walter Sullivan: Setting the record straight

Recently in a commentary opinion as published in the Nevada Appeal, a part-time Carson City resident and consultant on community development matters expressed her opinions. First of all, let me say that expressing one’s opinions are guaranteed through the First Amendment of our Constitution. However, I cannot sit by idly and, as much, need to set the record straight and address factual errors in the commentary. I note that the consultant states, “Time and again in Carson City, it feels as though the city and developer are working together and leaving those directly affected out of the loop. A Planning Commission meeting scheduled during the busy and demanding holiday season has the appearance of trying to circumvent meaningful public scrutiny. Public agencies often use the ‘holiday surprise’ strategy to push proposals through while the public is distracted.”

Again, while everyone is entitled to their opinion, I need to set the record straight as to what the legal Nevada requirements are pursuant to city planning issues (i.e. requirements relative to processing a tentative subdivision map through the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors). Nevada Revised Statute 278.030 states that a city with a planning commission must have a monthly meeting and that the planning commission shall approve and adopt rules for the transaction of business at its meetings. NRS 278.349 lays out the time period in which a tentative subdivision map must be reviewed by the planning commission and then by the Board of Supervisors for final approval in the case of Carson City.

In Carson City, Carson City municipal code states the Carson City Planning Commission shall hold a regular meeting on the last Wednesday of each month with two exceptions. First, the commission shall hold its November meeting the week prior to the Thanksgiving holiday the last Wednesday of the month falls on the same week of the holiday. Secondly, the commission shall hold its December meeting the week prior to the Christmas holiday. These requirements were approved and adopted by the Carson City Planning Commission and as such are referenced in its bylaws. I take exception to the author’s statement that the city and developer are working together and leave those directly affected out of the loop applying to commission meetings scheduled during the busy and demanding holiday season has been as the appearance of trying to circumvent meeting full public scrutiny. First of all, it is required by Nevada state law to hold a monthly public meeting. A planning commission is required by city municipal code to hold a meeting each month, and the planning commission bylaws specially address the issue of meetings during a “holiday season” and prescribe an alternate meeting schedule prior to said holidays.

The author is entitled to her opinion, but I feel that the misinformation and innuendo stated in the guest editorial is suspect and completely unwarranted.

The Carson City Planning Commission bylaws were written by city staff and adopted by the planning commission and the former Carson City planning and community development director (later commnity development services director). I anticipated issues with planning commission meetings around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I brought before the planning commission a revised meeting schedule for approval that met the intent of the public hearing requirements and the hearing requirements for processing a tentative subdivision map. CCMC 18.02 subsections 1, 2 and 3 state the planning commission shall hold at least one regular meeting each month and adopt bylaws and rules for the transaction of business and keep a complete record of its resolutions, transactions, findings and determinations, all of which constitute a public record and must be maintained by the department.

During my tenure with Carson City of approximately 31 and a half years, I attended and participated in more than 400 planning commission meetings, more than 600 Board of Supervisors meetings and, in total, close to 2,000 public meetings. Also, during the day, my career with Carson City, I drafted most of the current planning regulations as they relate to NRS for Carson City. These regulations were presented to the Carson City Planning Commission for recommendation and approval and ultimately to the Board of Supervisors for incorporation into the city’s municipal code.

I hope this information sets the record straight, and I do encourage residents who are adjacent to propose developments to work with the developer and his team to obtain positive results for land use issues and concerns of adjacency. Case in point is in the early to mid-1990s when the Silver Oak development was proposed for northwest Carson City. As both the planning director and also an adjacent property owner to the development, I could not be involved in the review of the development and recused myself. I did, however, with my wife’s assistance and direction, organize the immediate adjacent property owners to the Silver Oak development who were in the University Heights phase two. We were known as the Dartmouth 9. We met with the project developer, engineer and attorney to discuss our recommendations for approval of the development in exchange for development exactions. After several meetings with the attorney and engineer, the Dartmouth 9 felt that we could recommend adjacency neighborhood approval in exchange for certain development exactions being included in the tentative and final map conditions of approval. An example of such might be instead of having two-story, 35-foot-tall residences 10 feet or less from our common property line, we now have a stipulation agreed to by the development that states that only one-story homes will be built adjacent to our Dartmouth residences and those will have a midroof line maximum height of 22 feet and shall provide an expanded and enlarged setback of 20 feet. I have always encouraged in land-use matters that the existing residence and the proposed developer’s team work together in the spirit of compromise for a better project. During my many years as staff to the Carson City Planning Commission and in working with the public, I found a better land-use product would be obtained when the developer, the adjacent residents and the general public have an opportunity to work together for the betterment of Carson City.

Walter Sullivan worked 31 and a half years for the City of Carson City. He is a member of the American Planning Association. He also is a member of the American Institute of Certified Plannings and a full member in the Urban Land Institute. The latter two professional organizations require for membership review of one’s experience and education in the field of city planning. In regards to the AICP, a comprehensive written examination is required. Once these and other requirements have been met, membership inclusion into the two professional organizations are offered. One does not join professional organizations by simply sending in 25 cents and two box tops of your favorite morning breakfast cereal.


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