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5,000 Home Development In Cold Springs Gets One Step Closer To Infrastructure Funding

A huge development project in the Cold Springs area, north of Reno, just got one step closer to acquiring funding for infrastructure. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck and KUNR Youth Media’s Wesley Kaopio explore what the developers are aiming to do and how some Cold Springs residents feel.

Heinz Ranch is in the southwest corner of Cold Springs, along US 395 and the California border. In 2018, the Reno City Council approved a residential development called StoneGate, on about 1,700 acres where the ranch currently stands.

Once complete, the development is expected to have 5,000 homes, with about 200 affordable housing units. The approved plans also include a few schools, grocery and retail stores, and emergency services like police and fire departments.

“We look at it very similar to what Double Diamond and Damonte Ranch did in South Meadows,” Don Pattalock, the general manager of the development, said.

The project will be built in phases over many years. The developers are currently asking the City of Reno to issue about $36 million in municipal bonds to finance the upfront infrastructure, such as water and sewer. If the city approves this special assessment district financing, the developers could acquire funding from an investor at lower interest rates, Arlo Stockham, the City of Reno’s community development director, explained.

“The money will be coming from an investor, an investment group, who basically says, ‘We will loan you this money because of the city’s involvement.’ There are essentially people [who] are willing to loan money at lower cost. The bonds, is what they are, will be put on the open market, and someone will need to buy those bonds,” Stockham said.

Stockham said this could help offset the increasing cost of construction, and if the developer doesn’t pay the money back, it would not default on the City of Reno. Stockham told KUNR that staff are recommending that the city council approve the bond agreement.

“What we’re dealing with is a pretty extreme housing crisis for especially affordable type products. And there really aren’t a lot of choices left. If it’s, say, a family who wants a backyard, housing is badly needed,” Stockham said.

But before homes are built, the city council still has some decisions to make. So far, officials have not finalized the financing agreement.

Earlier this week, they did approve what’s called a community benefit contribution agreement. Basically, if the bonds are approved, then the developers must pay the city $1.5 million.

At-Large Councilmember Devon Reese voted in support.

“We’ve often asked in this forum if we are going to lend our credit, or creditworthiness, or bonding capacity, however you characterize it, what are we going to get in return?” Reese asked.

The bulk of that money from StoneGate developers would go to the North Valleys area for recreation facilities, a scholarship program for children from low-income families to participate in recreation programs and support for small business startups. Some of the money will also be put toward an aquatics facility in Reno.

The agreement also requires that StoneGate move up the construction of affordable housing components to an earlier phase. The bond agreement is expected to be finalized this summer.

Development projects like this aren’t without controversy, and residents have been vocal about their concerns. The proposal has people in Cold Springs split. Resident Nancy Jones has lived there since 2004.

“People that move out here are fully aware of the rural nature of the area, and that’s why they move out here,” Jones said.

But not everyone feels the same way. Cold Springs resident Beck Marco, who’s lived there for five years, says this project is better than an industrial alternative.

“That’s actually what StoneGate did; they changed the zoning. If StoneGate wasn’t gonna happen, it was going to be a massive industrial park, and that’s what it was zoned for,” Marco said.

Regardless of how this development unfolds, Jones and Marco both agreed that no matter how much they believe in their own opinions, they can see and understand the opposing view.

Wesley Kaopio is a junior at Earl Wooster High School in Reno. KUNR’s Youth Media program partners with the Washoe County School District to train the next generation of journalists. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck coordinates the program through Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America focusing on community reporting and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community issues are her passion, including the affordable housing crisis, homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, protests and challenges facing vulnerable communities in northern Nevada.
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