Heybourne Road becomes focus of subdivision debate
January 12, 2012
The future use of Heybourne Road between Gardnerville and Minden became the central issue in a heated debate Tuesday afternoon when Douglas County planning commissioners heard the sixth request in as many years to modify a 633-unit planned development straddling both towns.
Developers of the Ranch at Gardnerville presented an amended subdivision map that, among other things, proposed direct driveway access onto Heybourne Road, which is designated as a major collector in the county master and transportation plans.
Planning commissioners voted 4-3, with Don Miner, Frank Godecke and Jeremy Davidson voting nay, to follow staff recommendations approving seven of nine requested modifications.
Of the two requests denied by the advisory board, one had asked for driveway access onto Heybourne, and the other had asked to reduce the speed limit of the roadway from 30 mph to 25 mph.
“Allowing direct access compromises the efficiency of Heybourne Road and in essence circumvents the master plan,” staff planner Dirk Goering said in his presentation to board members.
Originally named the Anker Park subdivision, the Ranch at Gardnerville planned development was approved in 2004. Plans were to build 633 dwelling units over 201 acres, including 603 single-family houses and 30 multifamily units.
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Phase 1, entailing 30 parcels on 87 acres, was recorded in 2007. Five building permits have since been pulled, and at least two houses are under construction.
Since original approval, developers have procured a number of modifications to the planned community, including three changes to the development schedule itself. As it currently stands, the subdivision is comprised of 11 phases, with the last phase to be recorded by the end of 2032.
The latest requests included the widening of public right-of-way, inversely narrowing setback requirements, the allowance of on-street parking along Heybourne Road, changes to home elevations as well as driveway dimensions, and corresponding changes to utility easements.
The most significant request was the removal of alleyways originally included in the subdivision map to provide back-loaded access to homes. County staff had no problems recommending approval of direct driveway access to local roads inside the subdivision, but they argued that allowing direct access to Heybourne Road would essentially change the nature of the major collector and thus require a master plan amendment.
Under the most recent maps for phase 1, only two homes would have access to Heybourne through a single “hammerhead” driveway. At build-out, staff estimated, the subdivision could have 41 homes spilling onto the collector.
“Why did the county approve houses facing a major collector to begin with?” asked Davidson. “Now you’ve opened up this whole can of problems.”
Community Development Director Mimi Moss explained that the original design, including the alleyways, was consistent with standards of both towns and did not affect the designation of Heybourne. The houses would face the street, she said, but access would be provided through the alleyways.
“You have to ask the question whether the county is willing to give up an established, designated roadway for this one project, and what that would do to the master plan overall,” Moss said. “It’s a fair question (if Heybourne should be a collector), but to answer the question in full we need an amendment to the transportation plan, not the variance here before us today.”
Godecke questioned if the roadway would serve anyone else but residents of the subdivision.
“This road will carry considerably more traffic than the subdivision,” answered Jeff Foltz, the county’s senior civil engineer. “It will be parallel to Highway 395, and some people will use this road instead.”
Miner pointed out that some existing collectors already have driveway access, such as County Road and Stephanie Lane.
“Is the transportation plan to be held inviolate?” he asked. “Is there a little tweaking to be done?”
Goering said many residential parcels were created prior to new design standards. The county adopted the Nevada Department of Transportation’s “Access Management System and Standards” in 2007.
“If you go down Tillman Lane, it’s not an ideal situation,” Goering said.
Engineer Rob Anderson, representing the applicant, argued that staff had misread NDOT’s standards. He circulated excerpts of a table showing that private driveways are allowed along collector roads in 25-35 mph zones with minimum spacing of 150 feet.
Another table, however, showed that 200 feet of separation is required for driveways in 30 mph zones – an apparent conflict in the standards document that led Foltz to consult with NDOT officials prior to the hearing.
Foltz said he stood by his original assessment.
Anderson also presented results of a third-party peer review regarding the matter. Three local engineering firms provided letters stating that current phase 1 plans for the Ranch at Gardnerville subdivision would not compromise Heybourne as a collector.
“The projected daily volume of Heybourne Road (4,800 daily trips) is well within the capacity of a collector street,” wrote Katy Cole, associate of Fehr & Peers.
“The shared-access residential driveways are uniformly spaced and have low traffic volumes (two vehicles during the peak hour); therefore, we do not anticipate impacts to Heybourne Road due to the residential driveway access.”
Lasting nearly four hours on Tuesday, the planning commission’s decision will likely be appealed to county commissioners.