By Aman Patel, Environmental Justice Intern
On February 14th, the Reno City Council voted to approve the master plan of the proposed StoneGate development in North Reno, and it is now in the hands of the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency. Though the development might seem to be a good solution to Reno’s housing shortage, it creates several issues that will hurt our people, land, air, and water.
StoneGate’s location on the north side of Peavine Peak is bound to create increased traffic along US-395, which will increase air pollutants and greenhouse gases and cause a larger risk of smog for the city. Reno’s air quality already suffers due to fires in the summer and atmospheric inversions in the winter, and adding traffic congestion will only make it worse. The extra greenhouse gas emissions from the traffic will contribute to climate change, which has already threatened our local water supply and elevated our summer wildfire risks. If nothing is done to address the emissions of the anticipated traffic, we would only be compounding the problems that have been plaguing our city.
The StoneGate development will also strain the city’s resources: it will require a new fire station and school to be built, which is not the best way to spend the city’s limited income. If our public schools are already massively underfunded and our existing fire stations are barely staffed, it doesn’t make any sense to spend money on a new school and fire station. We should prioritize what we already have before we go about building new things.
StoneGate’s sprawl poses problems for the Nevada land, air, water, and culture. It flies in the face of the “Strategic Priorities and Goals” that the City Council has outlined for itself. According to the StoneGate project’s website, the development will disrupt 737 acres of the Nevada wildlife that we all cherish, on top of paving over historical water flows that plants and animals in the North Valleys depend upon. One of the City Council’s self-created goals is to “assure policies, services, and infrastructure are sustainable and support anticipated growth.” While the project might be able to relieve some of the pressure put on Reno’s housing market by our growing population, it will not do so in a sustainable way at all. The housing StoneGate will provide is mainly for middle- and upper-class families, for which there is already ample housing available. It doesn’t alleviate the plight of Reno’s low-income families, who are being left behind among the unaffordable real estate prices. If we saturate our city with housing that is inaccessible to low-income people and families, we eventually will be left with a large amount of low-income families who aren’t able to find a place to live. The StoneGate complex also encroaches upon land that is valued by many Native peoples in Nevada. Peavine Peak has historically been a seasonal meeting place for Native communities in the Great Basin; by developing it, we are in effect defacing a place that is culturally significant to many people.
For Reno to continue its growth sustainably, we must build upwards, not outwards. StoneGate and projects like it are a cop-out for Renoites: they remove the short-term symptoms of issues our city faces, but they ignore the long-term impacts that the expanding development might have on our community. We should focus instead on utilizing the available space we already have to provide much needed low-income housing instead of expanding farther and farther away from the center of our city. To truly contribute to a sustainable Reno, we must build affordable housing closer to Reno’s core for the people in our community who need it most so that we can prevent excess human impact on the wilderness and the cultural value it has.