City of Reno

Staff Report - Planning Commission
No Action Taken
Jan 21, 2020 5:00 PM

Staff Report (For Possible Action): Workshop for review of preliminary draft ordinances for the RENOvation Development Code Update.


Department:Community Development - PlanningSponsors:
Category:Status Update

Staff Report Formal Body

Summary: The January 21, 2020 workshop is scheduled for Planning Commission review, discussion, and recommendations related to the RENOvation Development Code (Title 18) Update. The City Council is scheduled to hold a similar workshop on February 11, 2020.


This is the first round of review for the draft ordinance language. Draft ordinances were prepared in accordance with the general direction received during Planning Commission and City Council review of a Targeted Code Assessment Report and a series of “Issue Sheets”. Feedback on the draft ordinances has been received at a series of public workshops, through input provided on the project web page or directly to staff, and at regular meetings of the Technical Working Group.


The staff report focuses on the major amendments and significant discussion topics that have emerged. Ten key topics for discussion include:

·         Code Update Process and Scope of Amendments

·         Grading and Hillside Development

·         Parking

·         Landscaping

·         Site and Building Design Standards

·         Residential Adjacency Standards

·         Historic Preservation

·         Application Review Processes and Decision Making Bodies

·         Processes for Flexibility and Relief

·         Application Review Findings


An assortment of less controversial topics have been discussed and addressed during the drafting and community outreach processes. More detailed information is provided in the digital attachments. 

·         Attachment A is an updated list of potential amendment topics that are outside the scope of the draft code amendments and may be considered through separate processes.

·         Attachment B includes the preliminary draft ordinances (Modules 1, 2 and 3).

·         Attachment C is a ±40 page working document of the Technical Working Group that lists each substantive amendment topic, along with suggested modifications based on public input and/or Technical Working Group review.  Further review is suggested for certain key sections. The Technical Working Group is completing its review of Chapter 18.08 Procedures the morning of January 21. Attachment C will be supplemented with input from that meeting.

·         Attachment D is a compilation of input received during the public review process. The substantive topics raised are addressed in this staff report and/or Attachment B.


Previous Commission Action:

       August 21, 2019 – Planning Commission provided input on administration and procedures (Issue Sheet 3A).

       July 17, 2019 – Planning Commission provided input on site and building design standards (Issue Sheet 2B).

       June 19, 2019 - Planning Commission provided input on development standard amendment topics (Issue Sheet 2A).

       May 15, 2019 - Planning Commission provided input on residential zoning districts (Issue Sheet 1C).

       April 15, 2019 –Planning Commission provided input on nonresidential and mixed use zoning districts (Issue Sheets 1A and 1B).

       March 20, 2019 –Planning Commission provided input on the zoning code update process.

       January 29, 2019 – At a joint workshop with Council, Planning Commission provided recommendations on approaches for drafting updated zoning districts and land uses, development standards, and procedures in Title 18.

       October 3, 2018 – Planning Commission provided input on the recommendations in the Annexation and Land Development Code Targeted Assessment Report.

       March 21, 2018 - Planning Commission provided input on plans to update the City’s land development code.


Background: Updating the zoning code is a priority implementation initiative in the City’s Master Plan, which was adopted in December 2017.


The comprehensive update to the City’s zoning code is scheduled to be complete in summer 2020. The key objectives of the update are to:

       Implement the updated Master Plan;

       Make the code more user-friendly; and

       Establish a more predictable and transparent review process.


Discussion: Significant amendment and discussion topics are summarized below. Workshop discussion is planned to be organized similarly, with greatest focus on the ten key topics.


Feedback received during Planning Commission and City Council review will be reflected in the consolidated draft code. Additional review phases are noted on the graphic below.



Scope of Code Amendments: **[Key Discussion Topic #1: Code Update Process and Scope of Amendments]** During the Issue Sheet review process, the scope of amendments for the Title 18 update project was discussed and refined. Amendments to certain major topics were not included in the scope of the project, but were identified on a list of potential future initiatives to be considered separately (Attachment A). Some of these initiatives are complete or underway. Stakeholders have generally supported the process of addressing certain complex topics through focused processes. Of the topics not being updated with this process, feedback received focused on updating the City’s flood hazard, wetland and/or major drainageway ordinances; as well as additional efforts related to housing affordability and economic sustainability, such as increased density and greater allowances for accessory dwelling units. Significant interest in code updates related to low impact development (LID) was also expressed and the topic has been added to Attachment A.


Zoning Map Amendments:  Targeted zoning map amendments will be needed for implementation of the Master Plan and certain text amendments. Public notification of draft district boundaries is planned to be provided in late March or early April. Map amendments will be proposed for:

·         The mixed use district consolidations in the Downtown area and urban corridors.

·         Targeted zoning map changes to conform with approved master plan land uses changes. These generally include certain Mixed Use areas being rezoned to Industrial or Mixed Employment in the North Valleys and certain Mixed Use areas being rezoned to Residential near the University and Meadowood Mall.

·         Targeted zoning map changes from the IB and GO districts.

Zoning outside these areas is recommend to remain unchanged pending completion of future neighborhood engagement processes. Potential map adjustments based on public input will be considered with review of the consolidated draft code.


Neighborhood engagement process for zoning and public improvements:  The updated Master Plan promotes a greater diversity of housing types, land uses and transportation options in and around Reno’s neighborhoods. A neighborhood engagement process is planned following the code update to consider parcel level zoning changes in consultation with the affected residents and businesses. Potential zoning map amendments and multi-modal capital improvements will be evaluated and discussed with stakeholders in each neighborhood.


Neighborhood Plans with neighborhood specific zoning overlay districts have been adopted in certain areas. Many of the topics covered by the existing neighborhood standards are also addressed in the updated  design standards. Potential sun-setting or modification of the existing neighborhood overlay district standards will be considered with the neighborhood engagement process following the code update. In the interim, neighborhood plan standards will continue to apply.


Chapter 18.01 General Provisions: [Module 3] Significant amendments and feedback include:

       Some relaxation of restrictions on the expansion of nonconforming uses and structures.

       General support

       Provisions for the transition from prior ordinances.

       No significant concerns


Chapter 18.02 Zoning Districts: [Module 1] Significant amendments and feedback include:

       Simplified Zoning for Mixed-Use Areas: The existing mixed-use zoning framework for Reno’s Downtown and Urban Corridors is simplified and updated. The draft code reorganizes and maintains the Downtown districts and the two midtown districts. New Mixed Use Urban (MU) and Mixed Use Suburban (MS) districts replace 24 overlay districts for the remainder of the Virginia Street, Fourth Street and Mill Street corridors. Amendments also address the consolidated development standards for the new MU, MS and ME districts,

       General support

       Downtown Area Zoning:  The existing overlay zoning districts for the Downtown area are reorganized into six base zoning districts with existing provisions generally retained. Master Plan land use and intensity guidelines are reflected, with provisions for reduced intensities in certain situations. Allowed density and intensity is reduced in the Powning district, in conjunction with development of a conservation / historic overlay district. Uses in the University district are somewhat more restrictive.

       General support.

       Recommendations to not reduce intensity as much in the Powning District and allow intensity transitions adjacent to other downtown districts.

       General Commercial (GC) district: Consolidate the existing AC (Arterial Commercial) and CC (Community Commercial) zoning districts into a new GC (General Commercial) district.

       General support

       Update employment area districts: The code update eliminates GO and IB and establishes a new ME (Mixed Employment) district that allows offices, light commercial uses, flex space, and similar uses. 

       General support

       Residential Districts: Residential zoning districts are proposed to be maintained with generally unchanged standards for density, lot sizes, building height, setbacks, etc. Targeted amendments reduce setbacks adjacent to alleys, establish height/setback standards, and refine standards for accessory structures.

       Significant input promoting the preservation of neighborhood character.

       Significant input in support of targeted zoning intensification.

       Recommendations to narrow expanded allowances for height and setback encroachments.


Chapter 18.03 Use Regulations: [Module 1] Significant amendments and feedback include:

       Targeted Changes to Land Uses Table:  Allowed land uses are generally retained with minor changes to include additional non-residential uses in the MF-21 and MF-30 districts, allowances for open lot parking use, opportunities for expanded home occupations in all districts, the consolidation of similar districts and land use categories, and the addition of newer land use types.

       General support

       Recommendations to refine certain use regulations.

       Establish Historic / Conservation Overlay Zoning districts:  Placeholders for Historic / conservation overlay districts are included for the Powning, Newlands Heights and Wells Avenue Conservation districts. Specific standards will be prepared through the neighborhood engagement process following the code update.

       General support

       Targeted changes to Use Regulations:  Changes include standardizing requirements for auto-oriented uses (gas stations, auto sales, drive through restaurants, etc.) and outdoor storage.

       General support


Chapter 18.04 Development Standards: [Module 2] Chapter 18.04 is the most complex and lengthy chapter of the updated code. This staff report addresses each Article separately.


Chapter 18, Article 1 Natural Resource Protection Standards: Significant amendments and feedback include:

·         Major Amendments for environmental ordinances are planned to be considered separately.

o       General support for the process

o       Continued interest in additional amendment topics, including flood hazard, wetland, and drainageway ordinances.

·         Codify 1.3:1 stormwater retention standard in closed basin areas

o       General support with some concern related to State water rights.

·         New Source Water Protection ordinance (notification requirement)

o       General support


Chapter 18, Article 2 Grading, Erosion Protection, and Sedimentation Control and Article 3 Hillside Development: **[Key Discussion Topic #2: Grading and Hillside Development]**

Significant amendments and feedback include:

·         Reno relies heavily on special use permits for the management of site grading and hillside development. The code update expands construction standards for grading and slopes, while relaxing special use permit requirements to generally reflect existing procedures in the City of Sparks. Grading-related special use permits would not be required for cuts and fills or for hillside developments under ten acres in size. Many common project review considerations and conditions of approval are proposed as code standards. Key changes establish new limitations on the scale, location and design of finished slopes to address engineering and aesthetic topics.

o       Significant support for the concept, combined with concerns from designers that the standards could be overly restrictive and may not allow for the best grading plans. Ongoing discussions are recommended to refine the standards and clarify the process and criteria to consider exceedances and alternative designs. 


Chapter 18.04 Article 4 Streets, Utilities, and Services: Significant amendments and feedback include:

       Increased residential sidewalk width (from four to five feet), to be implemented in conjunction with reduced road pavement width.

       General support pending technical review of updates to the Public Works Design Manual.

       Clarified criteria and process for review of sidewalk waivers

       General support.

       Related topics such as sidewalk designs, street trees, parkways, etc are addressed in later Articles.


Chapter 18.04 Article 5 Access, Connectivity, and Circulation: Significant amendments and feedback include:

       New street connectivity standards, including a standard for through access to adjacent private lands every 1,500 feet, with certain exceptions.

       Some concern about the standards being too rigid. Recommendations for technical review and refinement.

       New pedestrian and bicycle connectivity standards

       General support with some clarification and refinement of the new standards.


Chapter 18.04 Article 6 Off-Street Parking and Loading: **[Key Discussion Topic #3: Parking]**  Significant amendments and feedback include:

       Minimum Parking rates:  The City has minimum parking requirements that significantly exceed contemporary professional recommendations and have been cited as a primary regulatory impediment for infill development projects. Reducing and repurposing parking lots is also a priority of the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan.


The existing code includes parking reductions in certain infill development areas or in any location when “a report based on the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Manual, or another nationally accepted authority is submitted which substantiates/validates the use of a different standard.” The code update recalibrates and generally reduces minimum parking standards to reflect modern best practice recommendations.


Three “tiers” of minimum parking standards are proposed.  Discretionary (aka voluntary) parking minimums are proposed to be expanded to all uses in the Downtown area. Parking is currently discretionary for all uses in the California Avenue district and for retail, restaurant and entertainment uses throughout the downtown area. Level 1 parking is for the urban corridors and is not significantly changed from the already reduced parking standards in these areas. Level 2 parking rates apply to the remainder of the city and are reduced.


The City is also working on a comprehensive parking management strategy, which these regulatory adjustments are a component of. Additional strategies include the potential expansion of public and shared parking facilities, updates to the parking meter and parking permit programs, and funding strategies. The general emphasis is moving away from reliance on the site specific provision of parking to an area-based approach that is less costly to maintain and less environmentally impactful.


Additional amendments in Article 6 are intended to further support this transition and include transitional parking rate areas, expanded allowances for off-site and shared parking, expanded eligibility for affordable housing parking incentives, and elimination of maximum parking regulations.

       Parking is a primary topic for public input, with many suggesting more aggressive parking reductions and others voicing concern about the availability of parking spaces. Overall, the majority of input has favored parking reductions as aggressive or more aggressive than the proposed standards. Specific suggestions include the following:

       Consider the further reduction or elimination of on-site parking standards in areas that are outside the downtown area, but served by rapid transit. This could include Midtown and the University area.

       Consider use of American Planning Association recommendations for Level 2 off-street parking. These generally require less parking than the ITE recommendations and assume some parking congestion is desired.

       Staff is requesting feedback from the Planning Commission and City Council regarding the general direction for parking standards.

       Recommendation to utilize City of Sparks standards (reduced) for Level 2 parking rates.

       A suite of refinements and clarifications are also proposed.

       A draft trip reduction program is also included in this Article.

       Recommendation to expand and refine the program to address travel distances rather than number of trips, to apply more broadly, and to have a menu of compliance options from which projects could choose some. Model ordinances to be referenced.


Chapter 18.04 Article 7 Landscaping, Buffering, Screening and Fencing: **[Key Discussion Topic #4: Landscaping]**  Significant amendments and feedback include:

       The draft ordinances include modest amendments to refine and clarify the mixed use district landscape standards, along with certain technical amendments.

       General support for proposed changes.

       Some Landscape Architect professionals convened a working group and recommended further amendments to promote the growth and survival of urban trees. Recommendations are being vetted with builders and engineers, with the concepts generally supported by staff and the technical working group. Key amendments include:

       Reduce required tree sizes at planting (to 2 inch / 6 foot) to reduce costs and increase survival and growth rates.

       Establish tree well and soil preparation standards to better promote tree growth.

       Update standards for landscaped islands in parking lots.

       Other technical refinements.

       The Landscape Architect group also voiced support for new Low Impact Development (LID) standards. Targeted updates may be identified in ongoing discussions, but major updates are not recommended for the code update. The topic has been added to the potential future amendment list (Attachment A).


Chapter 18.04 Articles 8, 9 and 10  Site and Building Standards for Residential, Mixed Use and Nonresidential Districts: **[Key Discussion Topic #5: Site and Building Design Standards]**  Significant amendments and feedback include:

       New site and building design standards focus on multi-modal connectivity, active streetscapes, efficient circulation, site layout, building orientation and building design. Architectural and landscape style is generally left to the designer’s discretion.

       Separate Articles apply to Residential (Article 8), Mixed-Use (Article 9) and Nonresidential (Article 10) districts.

       Standards for nonresidential uses in and adjacent to Residential districts are further addressed in Chapter 13 Residential Adjacency Standards.

       Additional standards to improve industrial / residential compatibility are outlined in Article 10.

       More prescriptive standards are proposed with provisions for variability and flexibility.

       Each article includes supplemental standards for certain zoning districts, which generally retain existing code standards.

       This is a significant topic for public input and discussions. Most reviewers appear to generally support the framework and the topics addressed. Numerous suggestions for refinement have been received.

       Input focused on the appropriate balance between having specific development standards “with teeth” and having sufficient flexibility to address a variety of different sites and circumstances. Sections with alternative design provisions or a choice of compliance options from which to choose were generally well received, although some concern was expressed for the use of “loopholes”.

       Approaches for these Articles and for the process alternatives in Chapter 18.08 are inter-related. Proposed processes for flexibility and relief could be used to provide relief from the more detailed design standards.

       Staff supports suggestions to generally maintain the level of specificity, to refine language in coordination with key stakeholders and to more clearly specify criteria and considerations for the approval of exceptions.

       Recommendation to relocate Additional Setbacks and Stepbacks for Compatibility from 18.02.707 and 18.04.1305(e) to Article 8. These are new standards applicable to all uses in certain residential districts. General support has been expressed for amendments.


Chapter 18.04 Article 11 Improvement Standards for New Development: [no substantive amendments].


Chapter 18.04 Article 12 Exterior Lighting: Significant amendments and feedback include:

       The code update includes more detailed lighting standards that address different types of lighting and dark sky lighting requirements. Current standards are general in nature.

       General support with continued technical review and possible refinement.


Chapter 18.04 Article 13 Residential Adjacency Standards: **[Key Discussion Topic #6: Residential Adjacency]**  Significant amendments and feedback include:

       The code update proposes enhanced residential adjacency standards addressing a broader range of potential impacts when nonresidential development occurs within or adjacent to residential areas. Expanded standards address use limitations, grading, site and building orientation, signage adjacent to residential, spillover lighting, noise, odor, off-street parking, cut-through traffic, use of alleys, and loading activities.

       Process modifications are proposed to modestly streamline the project review process. Site plan reviews replace special use permits and would apply to all nonresidential development within 150 feet of a residential zoning district and nonresidential development over one acre in size within 300 feet of a residential zoning district. Development across major arterial roadway or freeway would not require a site plan review. Process changes are addressed in Chapter 18.08 below.

       Input generally supported the enhanced residential adjacency standards and focused on the details of certain standards and the appropriate level of specificity.

       Recommend retaining the site plan review process for large (over 10 acre) nonresidential projects that are adjacent to residential zoning but across a major arterial or freeway.


Chapter 18.04 Article 14 Skyways: [no substantive amendments].


Chapter 18.04 Article 15 Safe Scape Regulations: [no substantive amendments].

       This material may be moved to another Title of the Reno Municipal Code to reflect its broader use for public safety and code enforcement purposes.


Chapter 18.05 Signs: [Module 2] Minor amendments to temporary sign standards are proposed to maintain compliance with new case law (Reed v Gilbert). Broader amendments are on the potential future project list (Attachment A).

       Amendments merge the standards for temporary real estate signs and temporary political signs. Where existing standards for size or duration differ, the less restrictive standard is applied.

       General support


Chapter 18.06 Land Division: [Module 2]  No substantive amendments.


Chapter 18.07 Historic Preservation: [Module 2] **[Key Discussion Topic #7: Historic Preservation]** Significant amendments and feedback include:

       Streamlined procedure for designation and zoning of historic resources.

       Historic Resource Commission review of projects adjacent to historic resources.

       Expanded mitigation measures for the demolition of historic resources, including donation of a resource if other mitigations are not completed.

       Preliminary review of certificates of appropriateness with opportunities for waivers of further review.

       Maintenance obligation and “demolition by neglect” provisions.

       Review by the Historic Resource Commission is scheduled on January 15 (following staff report publication). Input will be summarized at the workshop.

       Key issues include demolition permits, including if the City should assume the right to deny a demolition permit for a designated historic resource. Input also addressed ways to expand historic preservation efforts beyond the listed properties and historic overlay districts.

       Some commenters suggested that documentation and/or mitigation should be applied more broadly when older structures are proposed for demolition.


Chapter 18.08 Administration and Procedures: [Module 3] Chapter 18.08 addressed four distinct (but related) amendment topics. These are summarized separately.


Procedure Topic A: Development review process improvements **Key Discussion Topic #8: Application Review Processes and Decision Making Bodies**


       The code update streamlines the approval process for relatively minor decisions. Development processing costs can be significant barriers for small businesses and are a substantial expense for the City. Changes include:

       Reduce reliance on special use permits and increase use of site plan reviews for small projects and design review processes. Both applications involve discretionary approvals with notification requirements for nearby properties and appealable decisions, but site plan reviews are simpler applications with lower costs and an initial administrative decision in 30 days.

       Distinguish between major and minor site plan reviews and further streamline application requirements for minor site plan reviews.

       Modify site plan review appeal procedures to include review by the Planning Commission instead of the Hearings Examiner.

       Expand exceptions to special use permit and site plan review requirements to include:

       Hillside developments less than 10 acres in size.

       Grading with cuts over 20 feet or fills over 10 feet.

       Nonresidential developments that are adjacent to residential zoning - but only across a freeway or major arterial.

       Administrative approval of additions to existing development up to 20 percent in size (increased from 10 percent).

       Administrative approval of certain amendments to Planned Unit Developments up to 10 percent.

       A Land Use Hearing Examiner process is being considered for expeditious review of certain flexibility and relief applications (discussed below). This process involves mailed project notices and a public hearing overseen by a land use professional (staff or appointed). This concept could be expanded to include other categories of applications, modified to include a small panel of experts, or not utilized at all.

       Significant input was received on the process and administrative topics. Discussion topics include:

       The Technical Working Group is scheduled to review these code sections in detail on January 21. Input will be presented at the workshop.

       Some input expressed opposition to process streamlining, citing the increased potential for impactful development activities.

       Other input, including from real estate professionals and preliminary discussions at the technical working group, expressed interest in further streamlined processes. Suggestions include a process for administrative use permits and minor site plan reviews with administrative discretion for approval, but no public notification or hearing process. Certain elements of this recommendation are in currently in place in Sparks, Carson City and other communities.

       The appropriate level of public notification and involvement is a policy decision warranting discussion at public workshops. This is a key decision that could influence approaches to other decision topics. With expanded development standards, staff is comfortable with a variety of procedural options, including more significant streamlining and delegation.

       Recommendations from land use professionals also addressed a desire to more clearly differentiate land use decisions from decisions related to physical development. Business licenses and various forms of “Use” permits would be required for certain land uses. Building permits and various forms of “Site Plan” permits would be required for development meeting certain dimension, size or location criteria. Approval findings would be different for the different application types. Some elements of this suggestion are reflected in the increased use of site plan review processes.

       Staff thinks this suggestion has some merit and could be implemented in different ways depending on the desired level of discretionary review. Alternatively, the blending of “land use” reviews and “site plan” reviews is commonly used and retaining that framework is also acceptable from the staff perspective. In practice, issues related to project reviews often involve a combination of land use and site design considerations.

       Feedback regarding the land use hearings examiner options has been mixed. There is interest in the process simplification and potential for increased predictability, but also uncertainty if benefits outweigh the costs of implementing an additional review process and periodic meetings.

       Recommend refinement or possible elimination of this proposal, with specific approaches considered in light of other discretionary review decisions.


Procedure Topic B: New Tools for Design Flexibility  **Key Discussion Topic #9: Processes for Flexibility and Relief**


       The code update includes new tools and approaches for design alternatives and flexibility.

       Minor Deviations:  The code update expands use of minor deviations to the maximum allowed by state law. This process applies to deviations not exceeding 10 percent with written consent from affected property owners. 

       Major Deviations: The City of Sparks uses Major Deviations to review applications for deviations of code standards up to 50 percent. A similar ordinance is proposed for Reno. Approval would require public notice, a public hearing, and a finding of no significant impact.

       Alternative equivalent compliance: Similar to major deviations, the code update includes an alternative compliance provision that allows deviations from design-based standards (versus quantifiable standards like setbacks and height) with public notice, a public hearing and a findings generally requiring that the project be as good or better than would be provided under standard code provisions.

       A Land Use Hearing Examiner process is being considered for expeditious review of Major Deviations and Alternative Compliance applications. This process involves mailed project notices and a public hearing overseen by a land use professional (staff or appointed). This concept could be expanded to include other categories of applications, modified to include a small panel of experts, or these applications could be processed with a planning commission public hearing similar to the current process for special use permits and variances.

       Design Review Committee (DRC): The code update considered the establishment of a DRC. This is not proposed in the draft ordinances, but could be considered in conjunction in the future or as an alternative to the Land Use Hearings Examiner.

       Feedback related to these concepts has been generally positive. Discussion has focused on details of each process and the type of public input process that is appropriate for each application.

       The Technical Working Group is scheduled to review these code sections in detail on January 21. Input will be presented at the workshop.

       Based on input received to date, staff is leaning towards utilizing a standard Planning Commission public hearing process for Major Deviations and Alternative Compliance applications. Planning Commission meetings agendas have been relatively light and should be lighter following approval of other process changes. Additionally, planning commissioners currently have the type of expertise desired for a land use hearings examiner or design review committee. This could be supplemented with further delegation of authority for small projects.

       Recommend continued refinement in accordance with general policy direction provided by Planning Commission and City Council. 


Procedure Topic C: Application Review Findings  **Key Discussion Topic #10: Application Review Findings**


       The draft ordinances include revised application review findings that are more closely related to the specific types of application.

       Review considerations include general criteria applicable to all application types (18.08.304(e)), as well as updated findings for specific application types.

       Findings specified in State Law are retained.

       As drafted, findings for site plan reviews and special use permits are the same. Draft findings address land uses and site plan considerations as components of an integrated project review. If changes are made to differentiate site plan and land use review processes, findings should be updated accordingly.

       The Technical Working Group is scheduled to review these code sections in detail on January 21. Input will be presented at the workshop.

       Recommend continued refinement in accordance with general policy direction provided by Planning Commission and City Council. 


Procedure Topic D: Planned Unit Developments, Specific Plan Districts and Development Agreements 


       The draft ordinances include targeted changes to requirements for the Planned Unit Development (PUD) district. Policy direction from City Council was to clarify standards for Planned Unit Developments, but not to discourage the use of PUD zoning. Key changes include:

       Requirements for a fiscal analysis.

       Provisions for reconsideration of PUD zoning if development does not begin within ten years of approval or if the project is less than half built within 20 years of approval.

       Provisions for minor amendments to approved PUDs (10% or less) to be reviewed administratively, subject to criteria.

       Updated Findings.

       The draft ordinances propose reinstating the Special Plan District (SPD) zoning district as a tool to establish supplemental land use limitations and development standards in certain areas.

       Format and content criteria for SPDs should be expanded.

       The draft ordinances propose the elimination of some limitations for the use of Development Agreements to allow increased use of Development Agreements.

       Requirements for Development Agreements to be associated with a special use permit or PUD are removed.

       Subject to additional legal review, requirements limiting development agreements to be used only for projects of regional significance are also proposed to be removed.

       Changes will allow the City to enter into development agreements with a broader range of projects, including urban developments that may not require special use permit review and may not meet the size criteria to be classified as Projects of Regional Significance.

       Feedback related to these amendments has been generally positive.

       The Technical Working Group is scheduled to review these code sections in detail on January 21. Input will be presented at the workshop.

       Recommend continued refinement.


Legal Implications: None at this time.


Recommendation: The Planning Commission should review and discuss the draft ordinances and provide recommendations to the City Council.


Proposed Motion: I move to recommend (insert recommendations).



·         Attachment A: Updated list of potential amendment topics that are outside the scope of the draft code amendments and may be considered through separate processes.

·         Attachment B: Preliminary draft ordinances (Modules 1, 2 and 3).

·         Attachment C: A ±40 page working document of the Technical Working Group that lists each substantive amendment topic, along with suggested modifications based on public input and/or Technical Working Group review. 

       Attachment D: A compilation of input received during the public review process. The substantive topics raised are addressed in this staff report and/or Attachment B.


Meeting History

Jan 21, 2020 5:00 PM Video Reno City Planning Commission Workshop

Arlo Stockham, Community Development Director, presented the staff report. The staff report focuses on the major amendments and significant discussion topics that have emerged. Eleven key topics for discussion include: 1) Code Update Process and Scope of Amendments; 2) Land Use table (housing); 3) Grading and Hillside Development; 4) Parking; 5) Landscaping; 6) Site and Building Design Standards; 7) Residential Adjacency Standards; 8) Historic Preservation; 9) Application Review Processes and Decision Making Bodies; 10) Processes for Flexibility and Relief; and 11) Application Review Findings. More detailed information is provided in the digital attachments.

(Commissioner Gower present at 5:15 p.m.)

Mr. Stockham reviewed the basic scope of amendments and asked for any comments or concerns. There were no comments from the Planning Commissioners at this time.

Code Organization:

Chapter 18.01 - General Provisions

Mr. Stockham explained the targeted updates.

Chapter 18.02 - Zoning Districts and Chapter 18.03 - Table of allowed uses

Mr. Stockham stated there has been a lot of discussion on housing, density, and residential use allowances. That is the main public input point on Chapters 18.02 and 18.03. He reviewed the changes, feedback, and recommendations.

Commissioner Hawkins discussed concerns with accessory dwelling units (ADU).

Mr. Stockham explained the regulations for ADUs are not modified in this draft and staff is not recommending that.

Commissioner Gower appreciated the discussion on the housing options related to single family and addressing affordability and density. That is something we can consider and he likes the idea of a phase II taking a closer look at that. What came up with ADUs was that we had just gone through a master plan update process and we were not clear with the community that we were looking at things like ADUs or changing the density of existing neighborhoods and that's where we got pushback from the community. If we go through a public process and explain some of the advantages related to affordability and density, it would be a valuable exercise to go through as a community.

Commissioner Marshall agreed with Commissioner Gower and stated it would be best politically to address ADUs and other mechanisms as a general housing topic. He also discussed the need to focus not just on the cost of building housing but also sustainability and other costs associated with housing.

Mr. Stockham responded to questions from Commissioner Marshall regarding the 20% bonus for units less than 800 square feet. It is a fairly modest density bonus proposal maxing out at 20% that will make a meaningful impact for some property but would not replace a bigger housing initiative. Commissioner Marshall expressed support for a more significant incentive

Chair Johnson discussed the need to explore this further.

18.04 - Development Standards

Mr. Stockham stated the Technical Working Group (TWG) had recommendations regarding the shadowing ordinance for parks and residences that will require further discussion.

Commissioner Taylor expressed support for the TWG recommendation to streamline the process for modifications to grading and hillside development.

Mr. Stockham summarized for Commissioner Gower the rationale for holding off on the tree protection ordinance component. Staff’s recommendation was not to load too many controversial topics into this process and to focus on some of these important issues by themselves. City Council already initiated a tree protection ordinance update that involves part of Title 18 and other portions in the municipal code.

Commissioner Gower discussed the hillside process noting that multiple special use permits (SUP)s are triggered by a project in a scenario where this procedural path is chosen with the SUP for hillside. His recommendation is that the city consider being more overt about splitting that component of the SUP out from whatever other component is triggering an SUP so they are not being lumped together as part of an overall SUP since they do require separate findings.

Mr. Stockham responded stating they will hear some broader recommendations along those lines when discussing procedures.

Mr. Stockham reviewed the key issues for Access, Connectivity and Circulation, and Parking.

Commissioner Marshall stated he is in favor of bringing Midtown in to the downtown standard and asked what the reason is for eliminating the maximum parking limits.

Mr. Stockham stated some cities adopt maximum parking to prevent businesses from building a huge parking lot that would be environmentally impactful. We have not found that to be an actual problem. As we are moving to more reliance on shared parking areas and offsite parking, we thought removing the maximum would help encourage shared and offsite parking. Land values are so high that no one is buying a bunch of extra land to pave it as a parking lot these days.

Commissioner Marshall urged that they not eliminate the maximum parking. If there is a need to develop something about shared parking, we can work with that but there may be unintended consequences from eliminating the maximum parking. He also discussed trip reduction programs and stated he would like to see some programs that work off of vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

Mr. Stockham confirmed that they plan to pull together some possible VMT ordinances from other communities and bring them forward for discussion.

Commissioner Gower discussed the need to be more specific in the contents of required traffic impact analyses. He suggested that more discussion or metrics in those analyses would be valuable so we're not focused specifically on trips related to level of service on intersections directly adjacent to a proposed project for example, but asking and providing a little more criteria on what we are looking for in the contents of those analyses so we can understand for a particular project in a given location relative to other uses what we could expect with not only the trips generated but the directionality of those trips beyond the site and the potential for VMT given the location of the site relative to other uses.

Mr. Stockham summarized feedback so far stating he heard mixed thoughts on the maximum parking standard and general support for refining the trip reduction program and reviewing traffic analysis standards.

Commissioner Gower discussed the connectivity section. Staff did a good job pulling in the connectivity components and emphasizing those. With regard to walkway design, there is a series of criteria for the physical components of the sidewalk but nothing related to the building design that it is adjacent to.

Mr. Stockham stated that language would belong in Articles 8, 9 and 10. This is more of a subdivision than site design.

(Commissioner Marshall absent at 6:18 p.m. Commissioner Marshall present at 6:18 p.m.)

Commissioner Gower discussed the bike connectivity section and felt they could do a little bit more.

Mr. Stockham explained it was a model ordinance that came from our consultants. We can look at that and expand on it.

Mr. Stockham moved on to Landscaping, Buffering, Screening and Fencing.

Commissioner Gower stated he did not see tree canopy requirements included in the landscape area requirement.

Mr. Stockham explained there is a general standard that says landscaping shall prioritize shade trees over streets, sidewalks, and other paved areas but we don't have specific language on tree canopy requirements. We can probably expand on that.

Commissioner Taylor stated she does not want to get in a situation where we have a drought and we have a requirement for people to plant all these trees when we don't have the water. She suggested taking into consideration shade features that can be used that don't require water and maintenance.

Public Comment:

Melinda Smith, Builders Association of Northern Nevada, we believe things are going in the right direction and are excited about the possibility of streamlining the process with findings that are more specific to uses and conditions.

Jeff Borchardt, Builders Association, Toll Brothers and member of the Technical Working Group, discussed the work done by the TWG and their recommendations. He also discussed the benefits of streamlining the process and proposed a more clear differentiation between land use and site plan review processes.

Stacie Huggins expressed support for the proposed changes making the code more user friendly and streamlining the processes. She suggested topics for further streamlining and refinement of development standards

Donna Keats expressed concern for process streamlining and commented on the earlier discussion regarding making Midtown parking discretionary. She suggested considering Midtown commercial versus Midtown residential. She will submit more comments to Mr. Stockham.

Jack Hawkins expressed support for code changes and explained challenges he faces as an architect specializing on infill development.

Chair Johnson stated he will open public comment again later in the meeting.

Mr. Stockham reviewed the Site and Building standards.

Commissioner Gower asked about sustainability elements. He noted that in the mixed use district there is a list of options with varying levels of benefits, and asked what the logic was in including certain of these elements versus others.

Mr. Stockham explained this was modeled largely after the existing code. Currently you have to pick two options from a broader menu but one of the options was energy efficient buildings and that is now a code requirement so we deleted that. It is generally a continuation of the existing regulation but applied to additional properties.

Commissioner Gower asked if there is interest in looking at those in more detail. For example, LEED Certification requires a suite of green building and site design components that include some of the other components in the list. He suggested an option might be to pursue green building certification or choose from three of the other options to create more of a balance.

Mr. Stockham stated that was existing code. He asked for help coming up with something that does more on sustainability but is also sensitive to the affordability priorities of the City Council. The Planning Commission has recommended this before and City Council said they were concerned about affordability.

Commissioner Gower stated he would like to be involved in this issue and suggested a similar model to the citizen group the City Council initiated for putting together the components of what is now the city’s Sustainability Plan might work here.

Commissioner Marshall expressed concern regarding relaxing the articulation standards for a menu approach. With regard to big box buildings, if we are going to go to an alternative menu type approach, it needs to really focus on the building itself.

Chair Johnson stated what has been put in here has opened it up to a suite of options in an attempt to give the architects a little more freedom. He expressed concern regarding alternative design elements requiring only administrative approval. If that is going to be left in here, we need to be looking at a design review body and not just for architectural standards but for site design standards and everything else.

Commissioner Marshall clarified that his concern is with large box structures, not mixed use on a smaller scale.

Commissioner Taylor stated she is not in support of design review committees. She stated she is not a design review expert and there are people at the staff level that are more experienced to make those decisions. If that can be streamlined while still getting a quality project within the enhanced regulations, she is supportive of that.


(Commissioner Hawkins absent at 7:26 p.m.)


Public Comment:

Tray Abney, NAOP Northern Nevada Chapter, spoke in support of the more flexible menu of building design elements. He expressed concerns regarding the appeal process and how easy it is to appeal a project that has been approved.

Donna Keats expressed concern that the streamlining is cutting the public out of the process and making the appeal process harder. With regard to the discussions about alleviating the cost of SUPs to get more builders, she stated if they can't afford the SUP they probably shouldn't be building the project.

Cary Chisum, Wood Rodgers, thanked staff for their work on this and expressed support for the changes to streamline the process allowing more time for better solutions.

Jack Hawkins spoke regarding design standards and suggested another option instead of administrative approval would be to have either a design review board or an in house architect.

Chair Johnson stated Commissioner Marshall has to leave and there will not be a quorum.

Karl Hall, City Attorney, explained that with the loss of a quorum the meeting must adjourn. The workshop presentation can continue with the commission providing feedback but no action can be taken.

(Commissioner Marshall absent at 7:57 p.m.)