Growing pain

Geno Martini is the mayor of Sparks.

I would like to categorically state that the Truckee Meadows Regional Plan DOES NOT project a population of 1.2 million people in the region by 2030 (or beyond) as reported in the media and implied by a citizens’ initiative regarding water and growth.

Today, Washoe County’s population is approximately 418,000 people. Average annual growth in Washoe County throughout the last 20 years equates to an average of 9,000 people per year. To suggest that the greater Reno/Sparks area will reach 1.2 million people by 2030 translates into a growth rate of 40,000 people per year. This kind of increase is simply unprecedented and impossible to achieve.

A group of citizens is circulating a petition to place a question on the 2008 ballot to ensure that the Truckee Meadows Regional Plan is based on sustainable water resources in Washoe County. The premise of the initiative would require Plan entities to plan for a population of 1.2 million people by 2030, or beyond.

The Plan currently requires local governments and affected entities (the Regional Transportation Commission, Western Regional Water Commission, Washoe County School District, etc.) to plan for approximately 600,000 people in the region by 2030. Based on a methodology adopted by the Board, population forecasts will be updated every two years. An update is due this spring. Early indications are that the new 2030 forecast may be just over 600,000 people by 2030, not 1.2 million.

Some entities are currently working on planning processes that conceptually analyze future growth scenarios beyond the 2030 planning horizon of the Plan. In their extensive dialogue they sometimes ask the following questions in different ways: What happens beyond 2030? What could happen in the next 100 years? What happens if in 100 years we reach 1.2 million people? Planners have used these questions to test the appropriateness of shorter-term strategies they recommend to their boards and commissions. Unfortunately, this dialogue has somehow been interpreted to mean that the Plan requires entities to plan for that horizon (100 years) or that number of people (1.2 million).

The water planners in our region confirm that the Regional Plan population projections of close to 600,000 people in 2030 are within the sustainable water resources of the county. This was reaffirmed at a meeting of land-use and water planners held on April 17.

The Regional Planning Governing Board has made it a priority to include all the entities in planning for our region’s population projections. Using the most current and accurate data available along with agreed upon methodologies, the Regional Planning Governing Board is confident we benefit from correct information and the best practices in population projections in our region which will allow us to effectively plan for future growth for generations to come.