Tech company asks to withdraw Storey County 'Innovation Zone' plan

An illustration provided by Blockchains LLC shows a proposed “smart city” in Storey County.(Photo illustration: EYRC Architects/Blockchains LLC via AP)

An illustration provided by Blockchains LLC shows a proposed “smart city” in Storey County.(Photo illustration: EYRC Architects/Blockchains LLC via AP)

A Nevada-based technology company that had asked Gov. Steve Sisolak and state lawmakers to let it create a new semi-autonomous "Innovation Zone" where it intended to build a smart city has asked lawmakers to withdraw the proposal from consideration.
Blockchains, which owns a large portion Storey County, said on Thursday that it no longer planned to build a smart city in the desert east of Reno and didn't need the Legislature to continue considering its proposal in a study committee.
"The company is grateful for the time and energy put forth by the Innovation Zone Joint Special Committee Chair and members," company spokeswoman Michelle Basch said in a statement. "Blockchains is excited to keep its headquarters in Nevada as it continues to develop its blockchain-based digital platform, build out the advanced technology business park on its land, and grow its relationships with like-minded companies and institutions in the United States and around the world."
With support from some of Nevada's most influential lobbyists and the governor, Blockchains proposed creating new jurisdictions called "Innovation Zones" for companies that promise a $1.25 billion investment and possess at least 78 square miles of land. The zones would be governed by three county commission-like board members — two of whom would at first be nominated by the company. They would operate outside the jurisdiction of local government and eventually could create court systems, impose taxes and make zoning decisions.
The proposal provoked opposition from environmentalists, local government officials and people skeptical of the growing power of technology companies. Sisolak, who praised the idea in his January State of the State address, elected to scale it back to a study rather than introduce it for consideration in the statehouse earlier this year.
"They've withdrawn their need for legislative intervention," said Assemblyman PK O'Neill, who sits on the committee. "I thought they had some very interesting proposals that I'd like to see them work more with Storey County on."
Blockchains CEO Jeff Berns told the Associated Press in February that it needed some form of self-governance to experiment with new applications of blockchain technology and promised, in exchange, he could make Nevada a global leader as it grows in prevalence. Blockchain is a digital ledger that can record nearly any transaction and is best known for facilitating cryptocurrency exchanges.
Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer, a Republican whose represents the region where the company had wanted to build its blockchain-centric city, said the company had sent a letter to the committee and governor to withdraw the proposal earlier this week. He said he assumed it would be up to the chair of the Innovation Zone Joint Special Committee, Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, whether to disband the study.
Benitez-Thompson did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.


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