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Reno City Council Vote Draws Shadow Over Development

A vacant lot with a church in the background.
Lucia Starbuck
The vacant lot where CAI Investments proposes to build a high-rise hotel. The tan and black building to the right, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, opposes the proposal.

A 20-story hotel might be built in downtown Reno along the Truckee River. But a building this tall would produce a giant shadow. That has people of different interests worried. ThisisReno’s Bob Conrad spoke with Lucia Starbuck about the city’s decision on the hotel proposal.

Seeking to create more housing and stabilize rent, the Reno City Council created “1,000 Homes in 120 Days,” a housing initiative that defers up-front development fees. This hotel project would include 46 residential units.

“There's a dire need for homes, in particular, homes that are affordable for people. What the city crafted was this campaign. Basically, they were going to defer fees for people who wanted to start new projects, building projects, that would house people,” Bob Conrad from ThisisReno said.

One proposal for the housing initiative comes from Las Vegas developer CAI Investments. The development is for a 20-story, high-rise, luxury hotel. This project would be built on what is currently a vacant lot facing the Truckee River near Wingfield Park. The hotel would be non-smoking and non-gaming. But the project has drawn criticism.

A map of downtown Reno.
Credit Washoe Regional Mapping System
A map of the properties CAI Investments owns, which are the five parcels within the red line.

The property’s next door neighbor, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, opposes the hotel. The church is worried about parking and cited concerns about the hotel’s height. A representative from the church said the shade from the development would impact the temperature of the church’s sidewalks and cause them to freeze.

According to a city ordinance, developments that have a possibility of impacting shade at city plazas and parks need to go through a special use permit process, overseen by Reno’s Planning Commission. But that requirement doesn’t exist anymore.

Council members recently voted to eliminate that process by a 5-2 vote. They deny the correlation between the vote for the ordinance change and the proposed high-rise hotel.

According to Conrad, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve called the decision difficult, but said she supports removing bureaucratic ‘red tape’ in order to increase development, specifically housing.

Two councilmembers, Jenny Brekhus and Naomi Duerr, opposed changing the ordinance.

“Removing this ordinance also eliminates a part of the public process because, with the ordinance, people could appeal. They would have to go in front of the Planning Commission for this project to consider the ordinance and people could appeal that decision by the Planning Commission if it didn't go in their favor. That would then take it up to the next level, which is the City Council. Now, that entire process is gone," Conrad said in regards to Brekhus and Duerr’s opposition.

These councilmembers weren’t alone. Over 200 community members spoke out and wrote against the ordinance change.

Learn more at ThisisReno.

Bob Conrad, PhD, APR is a media professional with more than 20 years of experience in journalism, public relations, marketing and publishing. He’s the co-founder of ThisisReno.com, a locally owned and operated online news website.
Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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