Top headlines from the Board of County Commissioners Meeting

by | Mar 19, 2024

The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:    

1. Board approves construction of infrastructure improvements at Regional Archery Facility: The Board of County Commissioners approved a contract award to Farr Construction Corporation dba Resource Development Company for improvements to the Regional Archery Facility in Lemmon Valley. This project includes construction of a parking lot, storage road, and improvements to the access road facility in accordance with the Regional Archery Facility Master Plan, which was completed and adopted by the Board in 2021. The Master Plan identified several needed improvements including restrooms, access road improvements, a parking lot, indoor facilities, and a new Olympic range. Funding for this project is provided through Washoe County match and a previously approved Nevada Department of Wildlife Shooting Range grant. The total project budget, including contingency funding, is just over $488,000. The full scope of the grant project includes design , purchase and installation of restrooms, and general course improvements such as erosion control, trail stabilization, and permanent target installation that have already been completed. 

2. Board approves contract to remodel and improve Senior Center: Houston Smith Construction Inc. was awarded a contract for improvements to the Senior Center on E. 9th Street, Reno. The Senior Center has been in operation since 1978 and continues to provide a wide range of daily services to more than 85,000 seniors, including meals and multiple assistance programs. The Senior Services Phase 1 Remodel Project consists of building and site improvements for the food services operations to allow for an increased level of home-delivered meals production and distribution. Improvements include a remodel and reconfiguration of the primary kitchen area, and replacement of the kitchen floor. The project was approved for approximately $840,000.

3. Board conducts hearing and passes ordinance amendments related to accessory dwelling units and other property codes: The Board held a second hearing of code amendments to update county code and include changes tied to four broad topics: accessory dwelling units, detached accessory structures, manufactured housing, and battery-charged fencing.

The Board of County Commissioners identified issues with housing supply and housing affordability as key priorities this year. The County’s strategic plan calls for streamlining planning and permitting processes, softening standards that create unnecessary housing barriers, and exploring incentives to spur the creation of affordable housing and a broader range of housing types in unincorporated Washoe County. Today’s changes are the first in a series of four priority code amendment packages aimed at achieving these goals.

The amendments related to manufactured housing and battery-charged fencing are to align county code with state law that was updated in the 2023 legislative session.  

During Washoe County’s Envision Washoe 2040 master plan update, housing affordability and attainability were identified as among the most pressing issues to residents. The increase in median home value in Washoe County has far outpaced the median home income, and the 2022 Consensus Forecast anticipates that unincorporated Washoe County will need to absorb a 16,824-person population increase between over the next two decades.  

One source of diverse and attainable housing can be accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which provide a unique housing option that enables various living arrangements for county residents, including multi-generational living, caretaker’s residences, low-cost rentals, and more. 

Several changes include: (1) reduce or remove discretionary review in certain residential regulatory zones; and therefore, reduce the cost and time of building ADUs, (2) modify the provisions regulating both detached ADUs and attached ADUs for consistency in maximum sizes across the Development Code, and (3) create a “minor” ADU classification for detached ADUs under 500 square feet and provide incentives for these minor ADUs. Changes proposed under this set of amendments are only applicable to unincorporated Washoe County outside of the Tahoe basin. 

While reviewing ADU regulations, staff also conducted an internal review of detached accessory structure (DAS) regulations and recent discretionary permits. A detached accessory structure is separate from the main building on a site but is accessory to the main use (e.g. a detached garage on a residential parcel). Currently, on most parcels in Washoe County, any accessory structure larger in square footage or footprint than the main dwelling requires an administrative permit approved by the Board of Adjustment. 

The amendments approved today will allow the permit for a DAS to determined by a simple square footage trigger in different acreage categories rather than by the size of the main home.  

4. Board amends ordinance to update sewer connection fees: The Board approved an ordinance to increase the sewer connection fee for developers to connect to Washoe County’s sewer utility.  A comprehensive 2023 financial study found that the previous connection charge was insufficient to keep up with planned capacity and treatment improvements and expansion of Washoe County’s facilities.  To address this, the Board approved an increase from $5,900 per equivalent residential unit to $9,477 per equivalent residential unit for new development, an increase of approximately 60 percent.  The increase in sewer connection charges will require builders and developers to pay more to allow Washoe County to continue to increase the necessary capacity within Washoe County’s facilities, preventing a situation where development would potentially not be allowed. The 2023 financial study found that existing user rates are sufficient to maintain operations and maintenance costs, and therefore only CPI adjustments to the sanitary sewer base user rate was recommended,  preserving the current rate structure for Washoe County Utility customers.

5. Commissioners appoint members to Library Board of Trustees and Open Space and Regional Parks Commission: The Board appointed Tami Ruf to the Library Board of Trustees from among 87 qualified applicants to fill a vacant seat through June 30, 2025. Ruf is a retired teacher and librarian and has resided in Washoe County for 51 years.  

“I’m interested in furthering the work I started when I became a high school librarian,” Ruf wrote in her application. “I created a safe, inclusive environment that served all staff and students at my school. I advocated for the inclusion of titles that reflected the students and staff present in my school and welcomed inquiry and curiosity into the library. Libraries are the heart of a school just as public libraries are the heart of our communities.”   

The Board also appointed Sean Hill, CEO of Sierra Nevada Journeys, to serve on the Washoe County Open Space and Regional Parks Commission for a term to end December 31, 2025. In Hill’s application, he states: “I have dedicated my professional career at Sierra Nevada Journeys to ensuring that youth in our community, particularly historically marginalized/underserved/underrepresented youth, have access to, and interest in, our natural and open spaces in Washoe County. I have a personal interest in serving on this Commission so that I can support this important decision-making body with a balanced and informed approach to issues regarding parks, open spaces, and cultural resources.”  

He received a majority of votes in the first round of voting and was appointed effective immediately. 

“Thank you everyone for applying and please continue to stay engaged,” Chair Alexis Hill said. “There are so many ways to be part of Washoe County and we’re thrilled that you’re interested.”