Debate zeroes in on Zerolene bridge
September 13, 2012
Developers of a large subdivision spanning two towns are asking taxpayers to help fund an estimated $2.5 million bridge leading out of the neighborhood.
“It should not be my client’s responsibility to build the whole thing,” said Rob Anderson of RO Anderson Engineering. “It should be a public-private partnership to construct it.”
Anderson represents developers of the 203-acre Ranch at Gardnerville project that, approved in 2004, includes 633 single-family and multifamily dwelling units spread across central sections of both Gardnerville and Minden.
Construction is ongoing for phase 1 of the project in Gardnerville, but later phases in Minden, scheduled to be completed by 2039, are what have Anderson and his client worried about cost-prohibitive improvements.
On Tuesday, Douglas County planning commissioners unanimously approved, by a roll-call vote, several modifications to The Ranch at Gardnerville Planned Development – the seventh time developers have requested changes to the project.
Chief among the changes this time were another extension of the development schedule, an increase of multifamily units to offset a decrease of single-family homes, a variance to allow front-yard setbacks of 10 feet instead of 20 feet, a variance to allow driveway access onto Heybourne Road for later phases, and the reduction of the speed limit on Heybourne from 30 mph to 25 mph, among other items.
Anderson objected to a specific condition of approval in the county’s report that requires the developer build out Zerolene Road in Minden as an arterial roadway between Heybourne and Highway 395. The condition wouldn’t apply until phase 3 of the project, which is scheduled to be recorded by 2024.
There are multiple problems with the requirement, Anderson argued. Since original approval of the project, the county’s design standards have changed so that arterial and collector roadways must allow for at least one access route into a community in the event of a 100-year flood. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also designated the Martin Slough, which runs past the development, as a floodway.
Anderson said the latter designation means storm drainage improvements cannot cause water levels to rise, such as a culvert that would back up water. He also said he anticipates Zerolene will be designated as an emergency route in the future.
Coupled together, the new requirements and conditions mean that a 135-foot clear span bridge is needed to connect Zerolene Road off Highway 395 to the new neighborhood in Minden, Anderson argued. He estimated the cost of that bridge at $2.5 million, in addition to the $3.9 million price tag for the road itself, as estimated in the county’s transportation plan.
“You’ve upped the ante, but no one has asked my client whether we can afford it, and now we need some relief,” he said.
Planning commissioner JoEtta Brown wondered how much burden taxpayers should carry in a cost-sharing agreement.
Anderson answered that he didn’t have exact numbers yet. He said costs to developers should be commensurate with how much traffic is generated by the new subdivision. He argued that the roadway and bridge are regional improvements.
Although planning commissioners approved the requested modifications, they did not change the contested condition regarding Zerolene.
Dep. District Attorney Cynthea Gregory explained that the condition was included in the 2004 plan and therefore should be addressed through a formal modification of the planned development rather than as a condition of approval.
In other words, the applicant will have to return to the board once more.
“This is a really good project for the community, and sometimes we get lost in the different details,” said planning commissioner Kevin Servatius. “I feel the issue of the bridge has to be addressed. A pretty compelling case has been made by the developers that the cost of the bridge would be significant.”