‘No’ to affordable housing
With more than half a million dollars already invested in the Crestmore Village Apartments, representatives of Picerne Development Corp. said, the Las Vegas company is not likely to fold its tents and disappear from Douglas County.
Laurel Edgar, Picerne’s vice president of development, said Thursday night she was very disappointed with the commission’s unanimous decision turning down the 40-unit project slated for Elges Lane, just outside the Gardnerville town limits.
“We consulted with the county and followed exactly all the rules they outlined – including buying property in a designated receiving zone,” Edgar said. “We own the land, but the state could pull our tax credits tonight if it chose to. Our next step is to consult legal counsel.”
Edgar said going to court and seeking a reversal of the commission’s decision was something she would rather avoid.
Crestmore, in conjunction with the D. Miller Foundation, a Nevada-chartered non-profit organization which promotes affordable housing, had asked the commission to rezone Crestmore’s receiving-area property from single family residential to multi-family residential. It was that request the commissioners denied.
Losing Crestmore Village means more to Picerne than forfeiting the money it has already spent – $200,000 in non-refundable fees and deposits paid to the State of Nevada Housing Division, and property costs and engineering fees which approach $300,000. It could also mean additional damage to the company approaching $2 million if its federal tax credits are pulled.
Michael Derloshon, of the State of Nevada Department of Business and Industry’s Housing Division, said Friday his office planned to wait 30 days before making a decision about the tax credits.
“We’d prefer to see affordable housing in Douglas County rather than pull the credits,” Derloshon said. “We’ll wait for (county) staff to come back with the reasons the commission turned it down, since the commission itself wasn’t too clear.”
Derloshon said his office had received letters from Douglas County officials requesting help with affordable housing last October.
“If we hadn’t received the letters, we wouldn’t have made the effort,” he said. “It leaves a bad taste in our mouths for future Douglas County ‘supported’ development.”
For Steve Lee, who lives on Elges Lane, the Douglas County commissioners’ decision to deny the Crestmore Village Apartment project was the end of a three-week headache.
“I’m so glad it’s over,” Lee said. “With a new baby and this, I’ve been stressing out.”
But for Douglas County, rejecting Crestmore could be the beginning of a major, more debilitating headache.
Repercussions beyond a possible court decision favoring the developer could arise from the commission vote.
Since providing affordable housing is federally mandated, how a county responds to that directive has a direct bearing on its receiving federal assistance.
Douglas County currently has, or has submitted, requests for federal assistance or block grant funding to help pay for historical renovations to the CVIC Hall in Minden, to help fund the senior center, to do sewer and water studies in the north county area and to help with Topaz area drainage.
The county narrowly dodged a federal moratorium on building at Lake Tahoe recently by assuring officials its master plan included affordable housing in the Carson Valley.
Affordable housing issues and how they are handled are also examined by other federal agencies when they look at doing joint projects with the county – which means the Bureau of Land Management’s program to purchase development rights from agricultural land could be put in jeopardy.
Commissioners said their vote, which went against county staff and planning commission recommendations, was due to concerns about tampering with the Douglas County Master Plan.
County Commissioner Steve Weissinger noted the board’s action would affect how the master plan would be implemented in the future.
“The issue is the zone change,” Weissinger said. “With 442 acres of multi-family residential (zoning) in Douglas County, there are other areas where this could go.”
Commissioner Bernie Curtis said his position was that the project was “incompatible where current zoning doesn’t allow it.”
And commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen noted it was the “right project, wrong location.”
“The master plan specifies mixed uses,” Etchegoyhen said. “When I look at the (Elges) neighborhood, I see a disproportionate amount of multi-family residential housing….A single row of single family residences backs up to one of the most dense multi-family residential areas in Douglas County. We need that buffer.”
Keith Ruben of R. O. Anderson Engineering, the project’s engineering firm, said the master plan directs that affordable housing go into receiving areas to help keep costs down.
“What little multi-family zoned land that’s left is prohibitively expensive for affordable housing, and the master plan recognized that,” Ruben said Friday. “It doesn’t require a master plan amendment to locate in a receiving area. Although, in order to support this action, they (the commissioners) might have to go back and redo the master plan.”
And implementing commissioners’ suggestions that Picerne put Crestmore elsewhere are not likely.
“If it doesn’t go there, it goes nowhere,” Ruben said. “The tax credits were only for that property.”
Ironically, Douglas County rejected Crestmore one day after a similar Picerne project was approved in Reno.
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