Washoe Valley Development Fight

I’ve been following over the last few weeks the developing story at washoevalley.org of the South Valleys Area Plan, or SVAP. It seems that a large developer is trying to push for high-density development in the Washoe Valley, since the Truckee Meadows where Reno is located is nearly full. So their thinking, I guess, is that it’s time to move on to the next, big, open valley and start filling that in too. And the Washoe County Commissioners, it seems, have no problem just rubber stamping anything the developers come up with

So the residents of Washoe Valley are starting to fight back, and starting to get pretty vocal in their opposition to the plan. The developer is responding with insults, calling them Chicken Littles. “They are going to get municipal water and sewer whether they like it or not,” said their lawyer. “They can have their rural lifestyles. But the only ones who are going to be able to live there are cows.” That’s nice and mature.

There was a county commissioner meeting last night on the subject, and Washoe Valley residents flooded the meeting. Over 300 of them showed up to speak the voice of the opposition, and it sounds like the county might be starting to listen and back down a little. I wish them luck, and I’ll be following the progress at washoevalley.org.


  1. Although I can’t help feel for the homeowners who live in Washoe Valley and enjoy their rural lifestyle, I can’t say I’m shocked. I mean, Reno/Sparks is growing and Washoe Valley represents a huge area of land close to the town that prime for development. The freeway, once complete, will only further facilitate the rapid development of the area IMO.

    In any case, I saw this coming years ago. I remember driving through a couple years ago with a friend and saying, “I bet 50 years from now this valley will be filled with houses and retail”.

  2. Scott, I don’t get it. WASHOE COUNTY wants to allow a development that puts 140 homes on 700 acres (5 acres per home) and people are upset? Upset to the point of arguing that the city of Reno will move in next if they allow the county to permit the connection of 140 homes to municipal water and sewers? Why would anyone think this is “high density development?” The Reflections development across 395 (already approved by the county but not yet under construction) will have water and sewer and connecting it to another 140 homes is a frikin’ no brainer. The COUNTY will develop this area just as it has developed the rest of the several miles to the north. I don’t know what these protesters are protesting but it makes absolutely no sense to me.

    Sure, there will be considerably more development in Washoe Valley in coming years, but I think it will be generally compatible with existing development densities. I could easily see another golf development (along the lines of Thunder Canyon) in some of the flood plain area along with upscale housing. But, it makes no sense to me to think that local paranoia can keep municipal water and sewers from coming in.

    That section of 395 corridor is really very much like, but probably a decade or two behind, the Mount Rose highway corridor from S Virginia up thru Galena. Initially there was a bunch of scattered and mostly unplanned sparse development overseen by the county. Slowly, more intensive but still fairly low density development on scattered bigger parcels began to happen – again overseen by the county. Now the Mount Rose corridor is pretty much built out with some nice golf courses and a lot of low density and fairly high value homes.

    A similar pattern will probably take place in Washoe Valley. Some modern community retail will eventually sprout up along 395 to serve the growing population as it did when the Raleys Center moved in at the bottom of Mount Rose. And, eventually they might build an apartment or condo complex or two near the commercial areas to provide some affordable housing near the retail sites. But by and large the area will remain mostly low density and high value single family housing.

    While we might someday consider Washoe Valley to be part of the “Reno/Sparks Metro Area” I don’t think it will ever be part of the City of Reno, any more than Montreux or the estates at Mount Rose will be part of the city.

    Also as the “original residents” along Mount Rose discovered, when nearby land owners finally decide to develop their land the county WILL insure that the new development is GENERALLY CONSISTENT in terms of density and quality with existing development. But, if you attempt to argue against SIMILAR DEVELOPMENT because it might spoil “your view” or “your community’s rural identity,” the county will most likely not support that viewpoint.

    In my brief scan of the current arguments, that is probably what the community group is now attempting to demand. And if so, they will likely fail. It is really a matter of land owner rights. The county generally can not stop a later landowner/developer from development that is CONSISTENT with earlier development. And if they try, they generally get sued. Steve Mollath – a TOP area real estate development attorney – is very competent and the county knows it. If my memory serves, he was representing the Ballardini Ranch when the county was forced to back down after trying to force the owners to sell to the county so it could create a park.

    Mollath may have been verbally over the top as quoted in this article, but he is also likely to prevail in the this disagreement – as he has in most others around the area.

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