Commission to review projected growth and building permits Wednesday

A graph from Carson City Community Development showing available residential building permits under the city’s growth management plan and issued permits. Since the 1990s, available permits have exceeded those issued.

A graph from Carson City Community Development showing available residential building permits under the city’s growth management plan and issued permits. Since the 1990s, available permits have exceeded those issued.

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The Carson City Planning Commission, to convene as the Growth Management Commission, is set to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting Wednesday regarding projected residential growth and building permits.

The meeting starts at 4 p.m., in the board room of the Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St. The GMC will convene first, and regular items for the Planning Commission will be heard afterward.

The GMC will recommend residential building permit allocations for 2025 and 2026 and estimate numbers for 2027 and 2028. According to a staff report by the Community Development Department, the proposed maximum number of permits, using a historical 3 percent growth rate, would be 779 for 2025; 802 for 2026; 826 for 2027; and 851 for 2028.

Furthermore, the threshold for commercial and industrial daily water usage is proposed to remain at 10,000 gallons per day. Any proposed use above that would require separate GMC approval.

“The Growth Management Ordinance was originally implemented in the late-1970s in response to a moratorium by the State Division of Water Resources on new subdivisions in Carson City due to wastewater and water capacity issues,” reads the staff report. “The program was developed in cooperation with the state to address its concerns. Per CCMC (Carson City Municipal Code) 18.12.055, at the beginning of each calendar year, the residential allocations are put into two categories: the ‘general property owner’ and ‘development project’ (owners/developers with 31 or more lots/units) categories in a 43%-57% split.

“After the first quarter of the year, all allocations are combined into a single category and available on a first come first serve basis. For most of the Growth Management program’s history, the total number of building permit allocations available each year has been based upon a maximum growth rate of 3%.”

Carson City has approximately 24,388 existing residential units, according to the report.

“Assuming all currently approved developments are completed at their proposed densities and all lands designated for residential uses are developed according to Master Plan land use policies, an additional 7,212 residential units could be developed for a total of 31,600 residential units,” the report states. “It is estimated that 31,600 residential units would result in a population of approximately 73,312 (using 2.32 residents per dwelling unit).”

The city uses projections from the state demographer for population counts. As of July 1, 2023, the city had a population of 59,039. That amount is projected to increase by about 1 percent or less than 1 percent over the next four years, hitting 61,548 in 2028.

City leaders on growth

The annual GMC process also provides the opportunity for other organizations and city departments to weigh in on any growth-related capacity or service issue for the following year. Although the GMC makes recommendations four years out, those figures are revisited annually and can be adjusted.

“The only concern I would express is that with the growth, we have concerns about street safety infrastructure for our walkers as there are more and more cars on the road in our tiny town,” Carson City School District Superintendent Andrew Feuling wrote to Community Development.

Nicki Aaker, director of Carson City Health and Human Services, said residential growth would create a “slight increase in workload” in 2025.

“Within the Environmental Health Division, it will be likely that a slight increase in workload would result in more time needed to complete the building permit review process,” Aaker wrote. “Increased residential growth will also slightly increase the number of customer complaints about unsanitary conditions in their neighborhoods and the commercial establishments within our community. Within the Human Services Division, there will be a percentage of the population that is low income so as population grows the needs will increase. In addition, with Carson City’s residents aging and on fixed incomes, the need increases as well when the price of goods increase (including housing costs).”

Darren Schulz, director of Public Works, said the city has water and sewer capacity for the 3 percent growth rate through 2025 contingent on completion of planned capital projects.

“Carson City's existing usable water rights are 18,648 acre-feet per year,” according to Schulz. “Carson City must allocate approximately 2,305 acre-feet to remaining approved undeveloped lots. As required by the State Engineer’s Office, additional parceling is also being accounted for. In 2023, Carson City's total water production was 9,735 acre-feet. This number represents the total water produced in order to meet the customers’ demands. The 5-year (2019 through 2023) running average was 10,780 acre-feet with the peak production of 11,365 acre-feet occurring in 2021. For conservatism, the peak year value will be used.

“Subtracting the 2021 total water production of 11,365 acre-feet and outstanding water commitments of 2,305 acre-feet from Carson City's usable water rights of 18,648, leaves a balance of approximately 4,978 acre-feet, which may be allocated toward new development.”

Increased traffic from a 3 percent residential growth rate could be accommodated by the city through 2025 depending on the roadway corridor, according to Schulz.

“This increase can be further mitigated over the next few years by enhancing mode choice and by focusing new development near transit routes,” Schulz wrote. “Transportation staff continues to work on a number of projects and studies focused on long-term concepts for critical corridors anticipated to see the largest increases in traffic volumes such as William Street/U.S. 50, U.S. 395 in south Carson City, and North Carson Street beginning in 2025. These projects and studies are aimed at improving safety, maintaining traffic operations, enhancing multimodal connectivity, and ensuring options in transportation choice. Increased traffic volumes are expected to be accommodated by planned projects and existing roadway capacity for most roads in Carson City.”

However, regarding transportation capacity, Schulz noted: “There are select locations, such as along U.S. 50 at North Lompa Lane and Airport Road, and along College Parkway between Roop Street and Goni Road where existing roads are at the city’s Level of Service threshold of D meaning as traffic increases, the operations of those corridors will degrade. In addition, roadway maintenance activities continue to operate in a deficit, although this is not related to new development. Consequently, the long-term condition of the city’s roadway pavement will continue to deteriorate unless or until the funding gap is reduced. The current estimated deficit in funding to meet our targeted pavement condition is $21M (million) per year.”

Two road-funding ballot measures, a sales tax and supplemental government services tax (on assessed car value), could raise up to $7 million a year if passed by voters in November.

“As development occurs, staff must be mindful of development project impacts to the transportation system and ensure fair and appropriate mitigation measures are implemented,” Schulz said.

Public Works also has adequate storm water infrastructure for 3 percent growth next year if the city follows the Regional Floodplain Management Plan, Schulz said.

“As of April 2024, there are 3,709.5 acres of Special Flood Hazard Area in Carson City which has been reduced from 3,832.5 acres previously due to regional stormwater improvements and FEMA approved amendments. Of that area, 2,723.6 acres or 73.4% is considered open space,” Schulz said. “The Regional Floodplain Management Plan affirms the long-term vision of the Carson River Coalition which utilizes a ‘Living River Approach’ that recognizes the importance of balancing the river’s natural floodplain form and function with various land uses.”

The Carson City Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office both expressed confidence they could handle 3 percent growth in the near future.

“The fire department does not oppose population growth, residential, and commercial development in Carson City,” said Fire Chief Sean Slamon. “However, population and building growth will increase emergency responses and could impact on our ability to continue to provide excellent emergency medical, fire, and rescue services to our great community without additional resources. As Carson City grows so will the demand for emergency services, (and) this must be considered as building and growth plans are developed and approved.”

Joy Holt, director of the Carson City Library, said the library does have capacity issues “that will likely become more significant with residential growth.”

“Specifically, we have limited space for materials, to hold community programs, and/or provide adequate seating and quiet study areas,” Holt said. “Our largest meeting space is routinely near maximum capacity for programs, events, etc., and in order to remain ADA compliant within the existing space constraints, we have limited seating, shelving for materials, staff workspace, and public bathroom space.”

However, Holt said limiting housing is not the answer to library problems. When asked what the library needs to solve capacity issues, she said, “a bigger building/space.”


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