City moves to suspend ‘common open space development’

The Carson City Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission at a joint meeting March 3.

The Carson City Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission at a joint meeting March 3.
Photo by Scott Neuffer.

A chapter of Carson City municipal code governing common open space developments — 17.10 — could be suspended in the near future.

On Friday, March 3, the Carson City Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission, in a joint meeting, voted unanimously to direct city staff and the district attorney’s office to work with expediency to suspend 17.10. Supervisor Stacey Giomi made the motion, seconded by Supervisor Maurice White, and Giomi later told the Appeal the measure will return to supervisors, but staff needs time to figure out necessary steps for the suspension.

According to Carson City Community Development staff, the contested Andersen Ranch West project is expected to appear before planning commissioners March 29 under the current common open space development law. Planning commissioners made a recommendation of denial for the project in September, followed by a vote from supervisors in November that sent the project back to the planning commission and gave developers a chance to revise plans. In both meetings, several commissioners and supervisors, as well as members of the public, argued the initial proposal of 61 residential lots on a historic ranch in west Carson, west of Ormsby Boulevard, didn’t meet the spirit of 17.10.

On March 3, the same boards, with some new members, concluded the law itself is problematic. The move toward suspension came after testimony from members of the public. Many argued developers have been misusing 17.10 to create neighborhoods incompatible with existing homes.

One recent development under 17.10 is the east subdivision of Andersen Ranch, east of Ormsby Boulevard, where roughly 200 homes are under construction.

Resident Sandra Koch said open space can foster human interaction and bring health benefits, especially in divided times.

“It can actually help people feel safer,” she said.

Resident Mariann Humphrey questioned why developers couldn’t make projects “gel” into existing neighborhoods.

“I’m not against growth, but we need to do it slowly,” she said.

Resident Richard Nagel said he was dismayed to discover common open space is not the same as public space.

State law defines common open space as a “parcel or parcels of land or an area of water or a combination of land and water or easements, licenses or equitable servitudes within the site designated for a planned unit development which is designed and intended for the use or enjoyment of the residents or owners of the development.”

Community Development Director Hope Sullivan told the Appeal common open space doesn’t mean public space. Public open space and parks run by the Parks, Recreation and Open Space department are public spaces. Common space can be a shared space among residents of a private development.

Before making the motion toward suspension of 17.10, Giomi urged the boards to move forward on revising 17.09, which deals with planned unit developments. The open space requirement for planned unit developments is 30 percent of gross land area with no more than 25 percent of that as private. That compares to the current 17.10 requirement of 250 square feet of open space per unit, which may be private or common.

Former Planning Commissioner Paul Esswein spoke during public comment and said he’d like to see multiple housing types in planned unit developments and more design criteria for open space.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment