City explores eliminating building-height restrictions
June 27, 2003
City staffers may take steps to make it easier for commercial builders and developers to erect taller buildings in Carson City, excluding the area directly around the Capitol.
The idea would mean buildings in the downtown area and commercial corridors could reach higher than the 45-foot limit currently in place, officials said Thursday.
Builders are now required to get a special permit for such a change, making loans difficult to obtain, said Mayor Ray Masayko.
Masayko brought the idea up to Planning and Community Development Director Walt Sullivan after he was contacted by a builder, he said. The builder explained to Masayko that investors charge special interest rates when projects require special-use permits, Masayko said.
The discussion prompted Masayko to ask staff to look into the change.
“It is probably worth our consideration if we want to send a message and create the image that Carson City is a good place to do business,” he said. “It’s worth a public discussion and debate.”
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Buildings in areas designated retail commercial, general commercial and downtown commercial allow buildings up to 45 feet tall. The proposal would lift height restrictions in those areas, excluding 500 feet around the Capitol.
For a long time many people thought Carson City had a law against building any structure taller than the Capitol, completed in 1871. From the top of the silver-colored copula to the base of the Capitol, the building stands 112.2 feet tall. The flagpole adds another 40 feet, according to the Nevada State Library $ Archives.
The fact is there was no law or ordinance restricting heights of buildings until 1995. The Ormsby House on the southwest corner of Carson and Fifth streets was built taller than the capital in 1972 by former Gov. Paul Laxalt.
In 1991, the Carson City Downtown Master Plan was adopted, establishing a rule of “no building taller than the Capitol within 500 feet.” The rule was made part of the Carson City Municipal Code in 1995.
The city’s Economic Vitality Strategic Plan, a plan adopted last year by the city, recommends lifting commercial building height restrictions.
Sullivan asked the city’s Planning Commission on Wednesday not to take action on removing the restrictions until after staffers had time to come back with more information.
Planning staff will have a series of meetings with police, fire, business, the public and other interested parties before coming back to the commission, Sullivan said.
“This is starting the ball rolling,” Sullivan told the commission.
It may take staff some time to return to the commission, said Kathe Green, planning technician for the city.
“It’s going to take a lot more time than a month to get that prepared,” Green said.