Lawsuit accuses Reno of shady dealings with ordinance change
RENO — A church built in downtown Reno nearly a century ago is among those suing the city over a change in a shade ordinance they say is intended to benefit a luxury hotel development that could have been subject to more stringent height-related restrictions.
The suit filed Jan. 6 in Washoe County District Court accuses the city of violating the state Constitution and open meeting law while letting neighbors be harmed, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.
The community group Save Our Streets filed the suit along with Hall Bonanza Investments and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, which sits next to the proposed 20-story hotel.
The dispute centers on an ordinance that had gone unchanged since 2006.
It prohibited any structure more than 35 feet tall from casting a shadow on residential properties and downtown parks and plazas during the winter solstice. That’s the day between Dec. 21-23 when shadows reach their longest point in the year.
Citing a negative impact on economic development, the city amended the ordinance in December to revert to the less restrictive version prior to 2006. That included removal of a special use permit process that required any project that cast a long shadow on public parks and plazas to go before the Reno City Planning Commission.
“Despite the overwhelming public opposition, despite the attention called to the open meeting law violations, despite the specific assertion that this was special interest legislation, the City Council voted to repeal the shade ordinance,” the suit alleged.
The city hasn’t responded to the lawsuit, which singles out one development that it alleges received special treatment from the city.
Las Vegas-based CAI Investments recently proposed a downtown boutique hotel next to the Truckee River. The lawsuit claims CAI’s lawyer Garrett Gordon encouraged the city’s planning staff to repeal the ordinance.
CAI Investments CEO Christopher Beavor told the Gazette Journal it had nothing to do with the ordinance amendment.
He said the company had already applied for a variance before the city reached out to inform them it was working on an amendment to the law. The city told CAI the issue might end up being moot if the ordinance changed, he said.
The lawsuit indicates the church was upset by comments CAI lawyer Gordon made at a public meeting that the suit says “cast Trinity Cathedral as extorting money from CAI.“
CAI had offered the church a $250,000 donation for improvements as well as parking at the proposed development property on Sundays.
Beavor said Trinity Episcopal, founded in 1929, ended up asking for $500,000, which likely frustrated Gordon. But Beavor said he doesn’t believe it was an extortion attempt.
“They did not reach out to me and say, ‘Chris, we want money, we want parking, we want this,’” Beavor said. “I was the one who reached out and made the offer.”
He said the offer to the church still stands.
The Rev. William Stomski of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral said the suit is intended to help protect local citizens, businesses, and non-profit organizations.