The Carson City Board of Supervisors on Thursday capped allocations for residential building permits at 765 for 2024 and 788 for 2025 after nixing a recommendation from the Growth Management Commission to designate a portion of available permits for affordable housing units.
“One, I really want to appreciate what the planning commission was trying to accomplish,” said Mayor Lori Bagwell. “Do I think that this regulation as proposed meets their intent and has enough sufficient detail to implement it? The answer is no for me. When I really dive into this, I’m like, I have to have a definition because considering isolating a building permit for somebody, well, then you better define it.”
In May, Carson City planning commissioners convened as the Growth Management Commission and recommended the Board of Supervisors use a 3 percent growth rate for allocations, with 2 percent for market-rate housing starts and 1 percent for affordable housing starts targeting workforce needs.
The city’s growth management program, which began in 1978, caps the number of residential building permits to a 3 percent growth rate. The city’s current population is a little more than 58,000, and the 2020 Census put the average persons per household in the city at 2.32. Population growth over the next five years is expected to be 0.7 percent each year, according to the Nevada state demographer.
“So, what I really want to go for this year,” said Bagwell, “is just sticking with the 3 percent and really have the planning commission and anyone else comment on the growth ordinance itself.”
Citing data from the Nevada Housing Division, Supervisor Maurice White argued Carson City has sufficient affordable housing. He maintained supervisors shouldn’t try to manipulate the housing market and said the recommendation from growth management “flies in the face of an open, fair market.” He emphasized current code doesn’t include provisions for affordable housing.
“I understand this has been a longwinded rabbit hole I just dragged you guys through, but I think it’s important to really understand that this scheme before us today is not legal, and we can’t do this,” he said.
Carson City Community Development has projected an additional 8,384 residential units could be developed in the future with existing zoning and Master Plan policies, translating into a population of 76,207 at buildout. However, over the last five years, permits issued have stayed below available allocations. The year of 2018 saw the highest number of permits issued at 541. Some 277 permits were issued in 2019, 177 in 2020, 201 in 2021 and 350 in 2022.
So far this year, through June, 215 permits have been issued, according to Community Development. City staff also noted the median sales price for a single-family home in the capital city has risen from $145,000 in 2012 to $520,000 in 2022 — something that motivated the GMC to seek more affordable housing.
Looking at the data historically, however, the homebuilding market in Carson is moving slowly, supervisors pointed out.
“This has always been a discussion we’ve had … Do we keep it at 3 percent? Do we reduce it to 2 percent?” said Supervisor Stacey Giomi. “The reality is as long we’re keeping it 3 percent, and we’re using roughly 40 percent of the allocated permits, it’s almost immaterial what number we set it at because — I think most people realize this — the number of home starts is market-driven.”
Mark Turner of the Nevada Builders Alliance spoke during public comment on the local construction industry. He argued supervisors should leave the growth management program the way it is.
“The other thing that dictates the pace of development are capital markets,” he said. “Right now, capital markets are really struggling. Financing for bigger projects is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain at this point in time. But that will end, and then those windows of opportunity open again.”
Additionally, supervisors approved dropping the review threshold for commercial and industrial water usage from 15,000 gallons a day to 10,000 gallons a day. Any use above the threshold must go to the Growth Management Commission for review.
In other action:
• Supervisors unanimously accepted a recent order from First Judicial District Judge James T. Russell reversing a Feb. 3, 2022, board decision that effectively denied a special use permit for a proposed slaughterhouse off Highway 50.
A special use permit for the facility was approved by Carson City planning commissioners in December 2021. Three appeals of that decision — filed by Doreen Mack, Jennifer Verive and Robert Buttner, and Kathleen Franco Simmons — appeared before supervisors the following February. Supervisors voted 3-2 to uphold the appeals and reverse the planning commission’s approval. On March 4, 2022, the company behind the project, Carson Valley Meats, filed a petition for judicial review in First Judicial District Court arguing supervisors’ denial of the special use permit was “arbitrary, capricious and characterized by an abuse of discretion,” according to court documents. In a June 16, order, Russell agreed with the petitioner, reversing the board’s decision and upholding the permit issued by the planning commission.
In a July 3 email to the board, Verive and Buttner asked supervisors to “aggressively pursue overturning the judicial court order.” They pointed to a 2022 Nevada Supreme Court ruling upholding Douglas County’s denial of a similar project.
Thursday, attorney Carolyn Tanner, representing Carson Valley Meats, said the Douglas County case was different, with different properties, factors and laws.
“This is apples and oranges,” she said.
Tanner added, “This application more than met the preponderance of evidence, and I think the court adequately recognized that.”
• Supervisors approved a collective bargaining agreement between Carson City and the Carson City Fire Fighters Association, Local 2251 of the International Association of Fire Firefighters.
The agreement will be effective from July 1 of this year, retroactively, to June 30, 2028. According to city staff, the estimated fiscal impact would be $2.94 million above five-year projections included in the budget for fiscal year 2024.
“This covers almost 70 nonsupervisory employees at the fire department,” City Manager Nancy Paulson said Thursday. “For the estimated impact of $2.9 million, I just wanted to note that the finance department did factor in many of the proposed contract provisions when they developed their detailed five-year projection for the general fund. So, much of the fiscal impact has already been accounted for in the city’s budget forecast.”
Supervisor Curtis Horton recused himself from the vote due to family members working in the CCFD. The vote was 3-1-1, with Horton’s recusal and White voting no.
• Supervisors unanimously approved a final subdivision map for the Silver Crest Condos project that would create 51 condos on a 3-acre parcel.
Zoned multifamily apartment, the property is located at the corner of East Roland Street and Oak Street. A tentative subdivision map was approved by supervisors in 2019, according to planning staff.
• Supervisors unanimously approved a proposed reorganization of the Public Works Department that would combine the water and wastewater divisions under one utility manager and create a City Asset Services Division overseeing asset management, fleet services and the city’s facilities and property management.
The reorganization will be completed without increases in the department budget or staff positions, according to a staff report.