Washoe County Votes to Dismiss Appeal, Move Forward on Housing Development

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The Lemmon Valley area is set to get more than 200 new homes if a planned development moves forward, but residents in the area are fighting it, saying it will make their homes less safe.

Members of the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee were trying to stop the development using an appeal, but Tuesday afternoon the commission voted that the appeal wasn’t valid.

That came as a big disappointment to the appellants, who crowdfunded on social media to pay for the process.

"We had over 190 people donate for us to do this appeal," Lemmon Valley resident Tammy Holt-Still said. "None of these residents are being heard. It’s all developers and that’s it."

The commission voted three to one to dismiss the appeal, because the appellant (Holt-Still) lives too far away from the development to merit consideration. County officials say that rule is meant to stop people who don’t live near the area from interfering in other people’s neighborhoods. The county sends notices to the homes within the immediate area of development, so they can give public comment.

Holt-Still called their reasoning "disgusting," saying she should be allowed to appeal.

"Considering my backyard flooded from that last year, and the fact that mosquitoes travel three miles, it does affect me," Holt-Still said.

The Lemmon Valley Heights project would add 206 homes to a 128-acre parcel off of Estates Road, on the east side of Lemmon Drive. The project is near Swan Lake, the previously dry lake bed that filled with water and flooded homes during the unusually wet winter of 2016-2017. The lake bed still has water in it, and some homes still show damage from the flooding. The county has put up HESCO barriers to keep the water back, but it’s an expensive solution to maintain, and it isn’t foolproof. The county is planning to buy up the worst affected homes so the owners can relocate and that area can be barred from further habitation.

Now, the concern from residents in the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee is that additional development will just make the flood risk worse, since developed land doesn’t absorb as much water as open land.

County officials say the developer is required to build to code, which includes managing any extra water runoff.

"I think it’s really important for everybody to know that we don’t just willy nilly approve development," Assistant Washoe County Manager Dave Solaro said. "There’s a whole long process this goes through to make sure that it makes the requirements currently within our code."

Solaro said the developer still has to pass a lot of hurdles to get the first building permits, but he does expect that to happen. And from the county perspective, he said building more homes is much needed.

"We are all struggling with trying to make sure we’ve got affordable housing," Solaro said, "and this is one way to do it, by actually creating more housing pool available."

Holt-Still said their group plans to keep fighting the project, saying they don’t believe the measures being taken by the developer are sufficient to mitigate the flood danger.

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