The Ventana Ridge development proposal to build 67 single-family homes in northwest Reno was approved in a 5 to 1 vote by the city’s planning commission on July 7. The development, which will be located on Peavine Mountain above Sandestin Drive, has been a contentious issue for local residents for over a decade.
“This project is ill-suited for the site’s steep terrain and limited access, and it further burdens city infrastructure such as schools and emergency services, which are already at capacity,” said northwest Reno resident Keith Doherty in a public comment filed to the planning commission.
The development is proposed for approximately 166.8 acres, of which 25.41 acres will be used for road and house construction. According to Garrett Gordon, the attorney for the development company Ventana Pointe LLC, the remaining acreage will be preserved in perpetuity as part of a deed restriction or conservation trust that will maintain the undeveloped surrounding area as open space.
The area with a yellow border marks the approximate site of the proposed Ventana Ridge development. The red dot at the bottom of the frame marks Reno Fire Station #11. Use this interactive map to explore the area.
Much of the south face of Peavine Mountain is private property zoned for development, which means that without these deed restrictions, there is always potential for new construction, whether it is supported by the community or not.
“We as a community don’t have much ability to tell someone what they can and cannot do with their land if we’re not willing to step up and buy the land to preserve it,” said Kevin Joell, owner of Sierra Trail Works.
The inclusion of protected open space in the current proposal is a new addition from the two previous Ventana Ridge proposals the developer had submitted in 2007 and 2018. These proposals had been denied by the city due to concerns about fire response times to the area, the location of the road in relation to already existing houses, and the risk of erosion on Peavine’s steep slopes.
Fire hazard remains a prominent concern for the local residents. Response time from Station 11, the nearby fire station that responds to emergencies in the area, would take an average of 5.3 minutes to reach the outermost edge of the neighborhood, according to the developer’s proposal. This is under the 6 minute required fire response time included in the City of Reno’s Master Plan for development. Each house will be equipped with internal sprinklers to increase escape time in the event of fire.
Just minutes below the Ventana Ridge proposal is the new Village Northwest, a development of 48 luxury condominiums on Beaumont Drive. Residents expressed concerns that the accumulation of these developments, which would account for hundreds of more individuals living in the area, would strain Station 11’s ability to respond to all calls in a timely manner.
“Any development in the city adds stress to all city departments, including fire. It doesn’t mean that we can’t handle it, it just means that the more people, the busier we get,” said Reno Fire Marshal Tray Palmer. There are no plans to add another station or more personnel to accommodate the additional residents.
The construction will occur across two drainageways on Peavine Mountain. These drainageways have been identified by the Nevada Department of Wildlife as wildlife corridors used by mule deer living in the area. The developer plans to build open-bottom bridges for the roads that will cross the drainageways, allowing for movement of animals.
“The bridge in the western drainageway is much larger than it needs to be to accommodate the [water] flows out of there, but it does provide potential pedestrian access and wildlife access under there,” said Brooklyn Oswald, Associate Planner for the City of Reno, in the July 7 planning meeting.
The development also includes the removal of approximately twenty Jeffrey pine trees, a native tree to western Nevada that provides habitat for raptor species. To mitigate the impact of this removal on the landscape and birds that rely on the trees for nesting, the developer’s proposal includes plans to replace these trees with double the amount of seedlings.
In addition to the impact on habitat, local residents also expressed concern about the already strained enrollment capacity of local schools to take on new students.
“Let’s think about impact fees or building the schools before we build all the homes for the people who will be going to the schools,” said retired McQueen High School teacher Dave Hooker in the July 7 meeting.
Over fifty public comments were submitted from northwest Reno residents in opposition of the project, and one comment was submitted in support.
The five members of the planning commission who voted to approve the project referenced their trust in the many wildlife, fire, and engineering officials who support the project as infrastructurally and environmentally safe enough to move ahead. Silvia Villanueva, the only planning commissioner that voted no, identified concerns about wildlife and lack of appropriate infrastructure for the amount of people the development would house.
The proposal will now go to City Council for approval before construction can begin. If approved, the project could start before the end of the 2021 year, much to local residents’ dismay.
“This is a jewel on the southern slope of Peavine,” said Northwest Reno resident Jacqueline May at the July 7 meeting. “We need to leave that little bit of nature alone.”
Claire Carlson grew up in Reno, Nevada, but now splits her time between the desert and the Pacific Northwest. She recently finished a master’s degree in environmental studies at the University of Montana.
Top image caption and credit: Green vegetation follows Brooklyn Creek, one of two drainageways that would cross the proposed Ventana development – photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally