Racing toward sprawl

Local planning officials this week have been dashing through the process for annexation of 142,000 acres to Reno and Sparks. This sprawl plan is very far along, even though it has been underway for only a short time.

It isn’t known why this process is even underway. There is plenty of unused land within the cities’ present areas.

Nor is it known why annexation is needed. We know what’s in it for developers. But the staff report on the project doesn’t explain what’s in it for the public. That report doesn’t even explain why annexation is good. It seems to take it as a given that it’s good because, well, because growth’s good.

The idea that planners automatically see sprawl as positive is offensive, and it’s a pretty good sign that local government is oriented more to its own interest—empire building—than to the public’s interest. It means that all the concern in recent years about sprawl has fallen on deaf ears in the places where it most needs to be heard.

Interested citizens have raised numerous substantive questions about the sprawl plan, but the speed of the process hasn’t allowed for them to be addressed. The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada commissioned a report that critiqued the sprawl plan, but there was little official acknowledgement of it. Sue Voyles of the Reno Gazette-Journal produced an excellent report on the danger to the water supply from the sprawl plan on March 6 called “Growth plans exceed local water supply.”

The sprawl plan is being rushed to completion with disgraceful speed. A few weeks is not enough for a plan that is supposed to cover a 100-year period. Using a year to create it, complete with careful planning, intense scrutiny and numerous neighborhood meetings to inform the public, is little enough to ask.

The sprawl plan represents a departure from the 2002 regional plan, which was supposed to be respected at least until 2007. Waiting until then would be a better way of proceeding. We need a crawl toward sprawl, not a race toward it. As it is, the process is being conducted with equal parts recklessness and arrogance. There are public policy consequences for that kind of conduct.

Having said all of that, there is one more needed element. The public needs to show far more interest in this process. The Progressive Alliance is doing its best to try to provide information, so all members of the public have to do is contact them. If the public has to live with this thing for a hundred years, it better spend some time examining it right now.