Review process to begin for Carson City’s Capitol Mall | NevadaAppeal.com

Review process to begin for Carson City’s Capitol Mall

John Barrette
jbarrette@nevadaappeal.com
A photograph of an artist's renderings of the Capitol Mall project are shown at Community Development Department. Building A is the parking garage west of the Carson Nugget on the parking lot/ice rink block.
Brad Coman / Nevada Appeal | Brad Coman / Nevada Appeal

WATER USAGE

Building Average daily water usage

Building A (garage/retail) 1,188

Building B (hotel/bar/cafe) 37,733

Building C (office/conf/retail) 22,788

Building D (garage/detail) 2,376

Building E (office/retail) 18,288

80,373 gallons

When the Capitol Mall project reaches Carson City’s Planning Commission May 27, parking garage street appearance and access, along with water use, will be front and center.

Those and other details undoubtedly will capture commissioners’ attention as they review a project special use permit (SUP) request and conduct a growth management review. Whether their decision will wind up being appealed to the city’s Board of Supervisors, the commission’s action will prove merely the beginning of a lengthy government oversight process prior to construction of the private-sector project downtown.

The mayor and supervisors, for example, will have to deal with two small parcels of city property in the project footprint and a street abandonment as well, according to City Manager Nick Marano, regardless of whether the SUP decision will be appealed to the board or the buck stops with the panel’s commissioners. The proposal includes a hotel with 150 rooms, nearly 500,000 square feet office or retail space, two garages with 1,600 stalls, and open mall space.

“There’s no city money or public money involved,” said Marano. He said he has talked with city staff and developers about retaining the city property and entering into a long-term lease. That would allow the city parking lot properties at 201 and 205 E. Proctor St. to still be city government’s yet part of the 10.5 acre development that includes a hotel, office/retail, technology center and parking garage complex.

“Unless you want to consider the long-term lease of the (city’s) parking lot (land) ‘public/private,’ then that’s OK,” he added. “But, I mean, there’s no public money involved.”

The city property question, as well as the proposal to abandon Fall Street, amount to cart-before-the-horse matters. That’s because a Carson City Community Development Department project review is under way now by Lee Plemel, planner and the department’s director, to assess the Carson City Center Development, LLC, SUP and growth management review documentation.

After his review, and when his recommendations reach the commission late this month, one question may involve the casino-connected parking garage, called Building A, which is planned west of the Carson Nugget casino and south of the Mint. The balance of the project proposal is east and southeast of the casino.

“Building A includes two land uses; 6,674 square feet of retail/commercial space located on the ground floor adjacent to Carson Street and a parking garage containing 237 spaces intended for use by both the existing casino land use across Carson Street and the proposed square footage of office, retail and commercial land uses throughout the Capitol Mall project,” Manhard Consulting said in documents on behalf of the developer.

As such, it doesn’t meet standards calling for retail to be “wrapped” at ground level with retail, office or residential uses along a minimum of 50 percent of the lineal street frontage in square footage. The standards, however, are flexible and can be modified in the SUP review process.

“Building A has been designed to provide adequate parking while preserving the precious western views of the Sierra Nevada,” wrote Manhard. “As a consequence of achieving both these goals, and as a product of its location on an infill site with street frontage on all four sides, Building A does not meet the above requirement that parking structures shall be ‘wrapped’” in precisely the manner called for in such mixed use, downtown developments.”

Plemel noted, however, though the west side garage — Building A — is under 50 percent the other and larger one on the project’s east perimeter would exceed 50 percent and the pair would reach 45 percent.

Commissioners also may pose questions regarding the west side garage skywalk to connect the casino over Carson Street to the garage, which is designated Building A in part because it’s the project’s first phase. Because of that, plans include architectural details for the garage; other project buildings’ architectural detail will come later as subsequent phases will be taken up. But the planning panel’s May review will be the pertinent vote.

In addition, ways of dealing with traffic around and going into or out of the two project parking garages could prompt comment.

Actually, such ingress/egress matters are posed in the Manhard documents as recommendations because city government deals with the street striping and configurations to handle traffic.

The Planning Commission also sits as the city Growth Management Commission to decide about projects exceeding daily water usage of 7,500 gallons. This project will exceed that extensively if it will be built in its entirety. In all, should every building be built and proposed landscaping done, the project would use an estimated 80,373 gallons per day on average, according to Plemel and Manhard’s documents.

Even that average could be exceeded markedly, according to Manhard’s documents and Plemel’s review of them. The maximum daily water usage could reach an estimated 334,339 gallons.

At the April commission meeting a growth management review for two car wash proposals passed muster after extensive dialogue, including concerns expressed about drought and other factors. The dialogue came even though the 7,500 standard was only breached at each proposed car wash by only 639 gallons per day.

Plemel, meanwhile, intends to schedule a preview session featuring a Public Works Department presentation on water supply for the Planning Commission prior to the growth manage review involving the Capitol Mall project. It will be similar to the one presented at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting in which the mayor and supervisors were told Carson City is remaining vigilant but has a sound water supply.

Marano said questions about water are legitimate and he has tackled it via city staff planning and action.

“For the Capitol Mall, we’ve set aside the right amount of water rights,” he said, though he added he understands there are concerns among some in the public with the drought in its fourth year.

The Planning and Growth Management Commission membership handles various exceptions for smaller projects routinely, often approving SUP or growth management matters after questioning. The massive scale of this project, however, is expected to trigger due diligence over many details.

After the commission acts and any possible appeal or the proposal to lease city property and close Fall Street reach the city’s governing board, there’s going be just four members to make those decisions. Supervisor Brad Bonkowski’s interest in Carson City’s NAI Alliance realty office means he must recuse himself on any Capitol Mall matters.

“As Andie (Wilson) and Bruce (Robertson) are the listing agents for the project, I will not be able to vote on any aspect,” he said. Wilson is Bonkowski’s business and life partner; Robertson is an associate commercial real estate broker with the firm.

If the planning panel’s decision is appealed, it could be done by the developer if denied or if there were disagreements over conditions, or it could come from some other aggrieved party. The language regarding appeal, however, says the appellant must have “participated in the administrative process prior to filing the appeal.”

Government’s interest in the private-sector project doesn’t end there. More than an acre of state land is in the proposed project footprint. Charles Donohue, state lands administrator, provided a signed letter of intent authorizing city government to review the project’s entire footprint, including that state land’s prospective use, but said many other steps are needed before the state land can actually be used.

“It’s in the concept stage for us,” he said. He said in the next steps at the state level, if they come, other state agencies must be consulted, an appraisal done, a plan made about disposal or a lease, and the final determination would come from the Nevada Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee.

In addition, the Nevada Appeal has learned a proposal has been made to the Nevada Independent Insurance Agents about that private group’s property in the 300 block of North Stewart Street, also in the footprint, but efforts to determine interest or action by the group’s board went unanswered. Plemel said unlike with city and state government, he had no signed document from the group regarding the SUP review.

The rest of the property is owned by Adams Carson LLC or Adams Divine LLC, which essentially are Hop and Mae Adams Foundation property-holding firms. The land now mostly amounts to surface parking lots.

The property-owning signature in that aspect of the Manhard Consulting documentation came from Steve Neighbors, the Meridien, Idaho, man who heads the foundation formed by Mae Adams. Hop and Mae Adams, now deceased, owned the Carson Nugget casino.

Neighbors’ involvement means he’s carrying through with his vows in late 2012 and early 2013 to proceed with a technology-oriented downtown mall in the aftermath of local voters’ rejection at the 2012 election of the City Center project, which was a combined public-private concept centered on a technology-oriented library, conference center and related development.