Ballardini decision looms

The Regional Planning Governing Board will make a decision on May 9 that will determine the ability of the public to acquire the 1,050- acre Ballardini Ranch for our future generations.

The Ballardini Ranch is nestled in the foothills between McCarran Boulevard and the Mount Rose Highway on the west side of the Truckee Meadows. Portions of it can be seen from the valley at certain angles, but once one walks up the foothills and looks down on this breathtaking ranch, one realizes that it is a pristine piece of our natural heritage that must not be lost. Its quiet atmosphere and scenic beauty, its wildlife refuge characteristics and the access it provides to the Toiyabe National Forest offer community assets that we can’t afford to squander.

Significantly, if acquired for public use, it will link to 1,400 additional acres dedicated by the Arrowcreek Development, which together will create a strip of open space that will span the entire foothills between McCarran and the Mount Rose Highway. These two parcels, which will consist of about 2,500 acres, will ensure protection of habitat for mule deer and create a nature preserve for our children.Washoe County has supported this, allocating $4 million of a recent bond issue toward its purchase. Both Reno and Washoe County recently adopted formal resolutions supporting purchasing the ranch with county bonds and federal funds.

On May 9, with the adoption of a Comprehensive Regional Plan, the RPGB will determine whether the sphere of influence of the city of Reno will encompass any part of the ranch. At present, the northern half of the Ballardini Ranch is included within the SOI of Reno. If Reno’s SOI is extended further into the ranch, it will send a signal to the ranch’s owner that Reno has a desire to develop rather than save it, and thus raise the price—possibly out of reasonable reach.

On April 24, the Regional Planning Commission voted that the SOI not be extended any further into the Ballardini Ranch. It voted to respect the efforts of the citizens and the county to acquire the ranch for the public. The status quo vote was fair and didn’t enhance or detract from the ranch’s development potential or from the county’s ability to acquire it. Interestingly (and correctly from a planning point of view), the RPC expressed interest in removing the SOI from the entire ranch, but it was uncertain as to whether it had jurisdiction to do so at that meeting, and so declined to vote on the issue.

On April 29, in an effort to thwart the planning process that could result in the status quo, owners of the Ballardini Ranch filed a request to annex the entire Ballardini Ranch into the city of Reno, an unexpected move.

The governing board should not be daunted by this sudden action and should vote to remove the SOI from the entire ranch or at least leave it where it is. If it does not, the the public’s opportunity to acquire the Ballardini Ranch for a fair price may be lost.

Let’s hope board members will unite and send a clear message that it is the collective will of the governmental entities with the overwhelming support of their citizenry to place the ranch in public hands forever.