After listening to residents who voiced strong opposition to a planned unit development near Casey Road and Birch Lane, Churchill County commissioners unanimously voted Jan. 18 to approve a project that will consist of single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.
After almost three hours of comments and discussion, commissioners then unanimously approved a tentative subdivision map for 31 acres on Coleman Road.
The 3-0 vote on the Birch Lane development comes almost nine months after commissioners accepted on April 22 a new code structure to streamline the current residential districts and a third code for intensive multi-family residential units. At that meeting, residents who live near the proposed development told commissioners they were concerned their rural way of life would change.
The current development calls for 619 single-family homes and multi-family residences on 107.2 acres north and south of Birch Lane. According to the county, the number of residences includes a provision for the developer to construct a county park.
During the public comment time, county residents tried to reason with the commissioners early in the discussion, but nearer to the vote, commissioners said they were going to approve the project.
Public Works Director Chris Spross spelled out the two agenda items. He said the Old Stone process for development began in 2021 with an application for townhomes, apartments and homes. He said a housing needs assessment completed in 2019 and 2021 determined a lack of multifamily, accessible housing existed in the county. He said upward to 2,300 housing units may be required within the next five years, and that includes 550 houses for Navy families.
According to the Navy, the Naval Air Station is short of several hundred housing units, and abut 13-15% of the sailors live in another county. Contract employees do not receive a housing allowance from the U.S. government.
According to the information provided at the meeting, the breakdown in housing is 101 single units, 108 attached or townhouses and 408 apartments. Homeowners will belong to a Homeowners Association (HOA), and the monthly fees will help maintain the streets and a proposed park. The two-story apartment buildings will be located east of the houses.
Developer Michael Railey said the trails and paths will be owned and operated by the HOA, but the general public will be able to use them. The development will occur in phases. Railey said traffic studies have been done by Churchill County and the Nevada Department of Transportation.
Residents then opined about the development. Not one speaker expressed support of the development because of the proposed apartments. Jackie Ugalde, who lives on Lattin Road, said the project butts up against her property and noted a fence will exist between her property and the expansion.
“Too many people, too many buildings in one area,” she said, questioning the project. “I’m not against growth but overbuilding in an area.”
Ugalde said the developer could reduce the number of building on an acre. She also questioned why the new homes when Fallon is not growing with businesses.
On the contrary, hundreds of residents living in Churchill County are commuting to jobs in Fernley and the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. The Lahontan Valley News reported in April 2022 statistics from the Churchill Entrepreneurial Development Association show about 43% of employed Churchill County residents commute outside the area for their employment.
As of November 2022, Churchill County has an unemployment rate of 4%. The Nevada Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation shows 10,998 workers in the labor force: 10,558 are employed and 440 are unemployed.
Another resident, Eddy Delgado, said he worries about noise and water.
“I feel like it’s not the time to do something like that,” he said.
Brent Huntsinger said it’s difficult to fight growth, but he questioned the proposed growth for the area.
“Townhouses don’t sound too bad,” he said, adding the apartments can be built near the air station.
Huntsinger said he was concerned with the traffic that could occur at the Shecker Cut-off-Allen Road intersection.
“I don’t want growth to be part of the problem,” he said.
Likewise, Ann Brown, a resident who lives on Dallas Drive, said traffic would increase in each direction. Another resident said the increased traffic would result in gridlock.
Jim Souba, who testified at the April meeting, doesn’t like the plan.
“This whole thing stinks,” he said. “The public is against it.”
Souba asked if commissioners if they would allow this type of project next to their homes. Mike Kubiak, a base contractor for 25 years, questioned the magnitude of the development.
“It’s trying to put 10 pounds of crap in a 5-pound bag,” he said as people in the audience clapped.
Others who spoke commented on lack of water, a possible increase in crime or annexation by the city.
Railey tried to diffuse the concerns. He said a traffic study actually showed a reduced number of vehicles, but his information was greeted with guffaws. He said the size of lots for homes will range from about a third to half-an-acre and assured the apartments will be located internally in the development. Railey added the maximum height of the apartment buildings will be 35 feet.
Commissioner Justin Heath, a Fallon native who served in Marine Corps and then the Navy as a commissioned officer, said the area is short of housing for veterans. He also said young people and high-school graduates are leaving Fallon because of the lack of affordable housing.
A handful of people in the back of the chambers shouted at Heath, telling him he lives in the neighborhood facing the development. Heath said he was going to vote in favor of the development. Getto followed, saying he would also vote for it. Commission Chairman Bus Scharmann added the third vote.
Commissioner Myles Getto said his friends wanted to stay in Fallon but couldn’t. In reply to a person who snickered that any housing or apartment development should be placed in Hazen, Getto shot back.
“I’m not in favor of putting this in Hazen,” he said.
Getto said residences should have the opportunity to live closer to town.
Commissioners also overrode two agenda items denied by the Churchill Coty Planning Board in December. Both actions dealt with property on Coleman Road west of Venturacci Lane. The property has been in county ownership for more than five years. The county bought the property because it’s located at the best point for a crossing over the Carson River and serving as a new north-south traffic corridor extending south of Moody Lane.
Churchill County, on behalf of the community, would also like builders to build a multi-family development. One proposal focuses on an application for a multi-family development referred to as Riverstone Apartments and will be built on about 32 acres.
As with the day’s opening discussion on development, county resident Michael Reese questioned the need for upscale apartment units on the land. He’s worried the increase population will translate into crowded roads.
“Coleman Road is a danger road,” he emphasized.
Brett Cashill told commissioners there’s “plenty of room by CAPS” in reference to the Churchill Animal Protection Society’s facility about half-a-mile south of the NAS Fallon main gate on Pasture Road.
Another speaker, James Sterling, questioned the need for 440 apartment, calling the project “not a good idea.” Other speakers said traffic will increase on Coleman Road. Justin Ibarra said it doesn’t make sense to jam so many people in a tight area.
After the last speaker commented, Heath called for the motion to overturn the Planning Commission’s recommendation. Getto and Scharmann followed Heath’s lead.
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