Report to the Executive Committee of the
Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA)
The following provides a useful history in discussion of the issues.
PROTECT OUR WASHOE
P. O. Box 20397
Reno, NV 89515
Telephone: (775) 827-2000
Facsimile: (775) 827-2185
May 16, 2002
Via Hand Delivery
Robert V. Abbey, State Director
Bureau of Land Management, Nevada
1340 Financial Boulevard
Reno, NV 89502
Via Federal Express
Jack G. Troyer, Regional Forester
United States Forest Service
Federal Building - Room 5428
324 25th Street
Ogden, UT 84401
Via Federal Express
William K. Dickinson, Superintendent
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
National Park Service
601 Nevada Highway
Boulder City, NV 89005
Via Federal Express
Daniel Walsworth, Refuge Supervisor
U.S. Fish and Wildlife
2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-2606
Sacramento, CA 95825
Re: The Ballardini Ranch
This letter is to provide public comment to you, as members of the Executive Committee under the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA), in connection with the priority of the Ballardini Ranch under Round 3 of the SNPLMA for consideration of funding of $15 million.
This letter is to urge you to place the Ballardini Ranch as a property having the highest priority for consideration for funding under Round 3 under the SNPLMA.
The Ballardini Ranch is the only parcel that will provide access to the Toiyabe National Forest from the Truckee Meadows from a convenient location. All other possible access routes to the Toiyabe National Forest are a substantial distance from the Truckee Meadows and difficult if not impossible to reach, effectively cutting off access to the Toiyabe National Forest from the Truckee Meadows. In addition, it will provide immediate access from the McCarran Boulevard Ring Road, which is adjacent to the Ballardini Ranch on the northern edge.
The Ballardini Ranch was first identified by public governmental entities, and by the public generally, as a sensitive land best designed for public acquisition and enjoyment, in connection with the governmental process involved in the freeway selection process in the late 1970's and early 1980's that potentially affected the Ballardini Ranch.
During the highway selection process, an alignment was preliminarily identified as the favored alignment and if selected would travel through a portion of the Ballardini Ranch. The proposed alignment was commonly referred to as the "A-alignment" or "A-line" described below. Protect Our Washoe (POW) filed a lawsuit in federal court to seek a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) in connection with that segment of Highway I-580 from the intersection of McCarran Boulevard (then Hash Lane) and Highway 395 through portions of the southern part of the Ballardini Ranch to the Winters Ranch in Washoe Valley. As used herein, the term "A-line" means that portion of the I-580 segment under consideration by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and that the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) from the intersection of McCarran Boulevard (then Hash Lane) and Highway U.S. 395 (known as South Virginia Street) through portions of the southern part of the Ballardini Ranch along the foothills, through the Arrowcreek Development property, intersecting the Mount Rose Highway, and through the Callahan Ranch to the Winters Ranch in Washoe Valley.
In the federal litigation the FHWA and NDOT stipulated to prepare the SEIS. In the process of preparing the SEIS, as discussed below, it became clear that the Ballardini Ranch area was an extraordinarily special piece of property that deserved permanent preservation for a number of reasons, including providing critical access to the Toiyabe National Forest from the Truckee Meadows and for protection of the deer herd. Some of these unique attributes of the Ballardini Ranch are discussed in the Tueller Report, mentioned below.
Since that time the citizens have worked very hard to protect the Ballardini Ranch and to assure its ultimate acquisition and preservation for the public.
The following is some background information with respect to the Ballardini Ranch.
1. Public and Governmental Recognition of the Value of the Ballardini Ranch 1978-1982.
As mentioned above, public recognition of the value of the Ballardini Ranch (also previously known as the Gaspari Ranch) public recognition began to surface in the 1970's. As mentioned, this was spurred by the FHWA and NDOT studies in preparation of the SEIS, as defined above.
The A-line segment initially favored by the FHWA and NDOT (and preferred by FHWA and NDOT for a number of reasons, including fiscal reasons) would have decimated the pristine value of the Ballardini Ranch along with the rural residential character of the Southwest Truckee Meadows and wildlife habitat lying in its path. As a result of the implications of the A-line, litigation was commenced, as mentioned above, and FHWA and NDOT stipulated to provide the SEIS. The SEIS
procedure and process resulted in an analysis of the impact the construction of the A-line segment through the Ballardini Ranch area as well as the Arrowcreek dedicated area consisting of 1,400 acres would cause, and the negative effects it would have on the Ballardini Ranch area, the Southwest Truckee Meadows generally, critical refuge for the mule deer herd, and opportunities for public access to the Toiyabe National Forest.
As part of the SEIS process, the federal and state governments recognized the value of the Ballardini Ranch area, and some of the factors giving value to the area are discussed in the Tueller Report, mentioned below. Ultimately, after numerous hearings, and overwhelming public support for the protection of the area, the A-line was abandoned and rejected, after becoming aware of the serious damage it would cause to the entire environment in that area. A principal consideration, of course, was the indelible injury it would cause to the habitat, environment and serenity of the Ballardini Ranch area, and the area that includes the Arrowcreek dedicated property, consisting of 1,400 acres.
As a result, NDOT determined to select the "S-line" which has an "S" configuration (through the central portion of the Truckee Meadows, far away from the Ballardini Ranch) from the intersection of McCarran Boulevard and U.S. Highway 395 to the Mount Rose Highway (now constructed), and which will (in the future) travel, as part of the next segment, through the hills near Pleasant Valley to the Winters Ranch. Over 2,000 persons signed a petition seeking the rejection of the A-line alignment (and the protection of the Ballardini Ranch area) and requesting selection of the "S"
alignment, and supporting the rejection the "A" alignment.
2. Adoption of the Southwest Truckee Meadows Land Use and Transportation Plan Protecting the Ballardini Ranch 1982 - 1984
On the heels of the decision to select the "S" alignment, the Washoe County Commission formed the Southwest Truckee Meadows Citizens Advisory Board (the "Advisory Board") which was then charged with the responsibility of preparing the land use and transportation plan for the Southwest Truckee Meadows.
After 24 months of study and numerous hearings, it was recognized that a land use and transportation plan should be adopted to protect the primitive open spaces of the Ballardini Ranch and a substantial part of the Redfield development (a large parcel of propertyóconsisting of approximately 6,000 acres -- owned by the estate of Le Vere Redfield, now known as the "Arrowcreek Development"), which is located immediately adjacent to the U.S. Forest Service land on the west and immediately south, and adjacent to, the Ballardini Ranch.
A compromise was forged (and approved by the Washoe County Commission) with the owners of the Redfield property (now Arrowcreek Development) that allowed for dedication of approximately 1,400 acres along the foothills between the Mount Rose Highway and the Ballardini Ranch. This compromise exists today, and the successor to Redfield, Arrowcreek Development, is required to dedicate for public use approximately 1,400 acres, along the foothills, between the Mount Rose Highway and the Ballardini Ranch. This property is to be dedicated to Washoe County or, if otherwise determined appropriate, the U.S. Forest Service to augment the Toiyabe National Forest.
As part of the compromise with owners of the Redfield/Arrowcreek property, it was recognized that the Ballardini Ranch should be brought into public hands. It was recognized that the Ballardini Ranch would provide for wildlife habitat, open space, and pristine beauty from McCarran Boulevard (then known as Hash Lane) to the Mount Rose Highway. Considered collectively with the Arrowcreek development, it would provide open space of 2,500 acres from McCarran Boulevard to the Mount Rose Highway along the foothills of the Truckee Meadows.
It should be noted that access to Toiyabe National Forest is not available for the Arrowcreek Development, in view of the fact there are no roads leading to the Toiyabe National Forest through the Arrowcreek Development dedicated property. In contrast, if the Ballardini Ranch were to be developed to the full density (such as that proposed by the developer in 1997 for approximately 2,200 homes), the value of the dedication of the Arrowcreek property would be lost; access to the Toiyabe National Forest would be effectively eliminated from the Truckee Meadows, and the future of the survivability of the deer herd would be placed in jeopardy.
3. The Ballardini Ranch Mid-1990's
A. Efforts by the American Land Conservancy
In the mid-1990's the Ballardini family determined, for fiscal reasons that they should sell the Ballardini Ranch. The Ballardini family preferred to have the property remain in public hands as open space used for the public. As part of the process, the American Land Conservancy (ALC) negotiated with the Ballardini family and obtained an option to acquire the Ballardini Ranch. The ALC was to obtain the Ballardini Ranch by means of an exchange program whereby federal land in southern Nevada was being exchanged to preserve other properties throughout the state. The land exchange program that the ALC intended to utilize was placed on hold, as most of you know, and, as a result, the option expired. As a result, the Ballardini family ultimately sold the property to Evans Creek LLC, the current owner, which is a Minnesota developer.
B. Ultimate Acquisition by the Current Owner - May 11, 1998
In 1997, prior to the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch by its current owner/developer, namely Evans Creek LLC, the Ballardini family entered into an agreement with Evans Creek LLC to sell the ranch subject to Evans Creek LLC obtaining certain approvals for higher density and annexation prior to close of escrow. POW believes the purchase price agreed upon at that time was approximately $12 million. Application was made for increased density, providing for approximately 2,200 homes, and annexation to the City of Reno, but because of public outcry, a few hours before the hearing the prospective owner pulled the application.
On May 11, 1998, the current owner/developer from Minnesota acquired the Ballardini Ranch without conditions precedent for zoning and/or density. Public records show that the Ballardini Ranch was acquired for $8.5 million.
After the current owner acquired the Ballardini Ranch, it sought approval for higher density in the northern half of the Ballardini Ranch, for approximately 1,000 homes. After a hearing, that effort was turned down.
On April 29, 2002, the owner applied for annexation of the entire ranch to the City of Reno, although only the northern half is in the sphere of influence (SOI) of the City of Reno at this time.
4. Action by the Washoe County Commission $4,000,000 Bond Issue
After the failure of the effort by the ALC to acquire the Ballardini Ranch for public use through the means of the federal land exchange program, it became clear there was need for a bond issue to assist in the acquisition of the ranch. As a result, a bond issue was ultimately approved by the Washoe County Commission, working with the cities of Reno and Sparks, was approved by the voters and allocated $4 million to apply toward the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch.
Accordingly, at present $4 million is available for the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch through the bond issue approved by the voters of Washoe County.
Additionally, it is hoped that $15 million under the SNPLMA will be made available to augment the $4 million already approved by the voters, for acquisition of the ranch, a decision that will rest largely on the recommendation of the Executive Committee on May 20, 2002.
On August 14, 2001 the Washoe County Commissioners approved a formal resolution expressing a desire for the public acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch and authorizing the seeking of additional funding under SNPLMA for its acquisition.
On September 18, 2001, the Reno City Council unanimously approved a similar resolution, recognizing the value of the Ballardini Ranch for the citizens and visitors of the Truckee Meadows, and authorized a request for federal funding under SNPLMA for the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch.
U.S. Senator Harry Reid (Nevada) and Congressman Jim Gibbons (Nevada) have both expressed strong support for the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch for the public.
5. The Tueller Report October 23, 2000.
As part of the workup for determining the unique characteristics of the Ballardini Ranch that make it so special for public acquisition, a study was prepared by Dr. Paul T. Tueller, Ph.D., completed August 23, 2000, (the "Tueller Report"), which is quite comprehensive in nature. Dr. Tueller is a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and is the most knowledgeable individual in the state on issues involving the ecology of the Ballardini Ranch. The full text of the Tueller Report may be found on the POW website.
The conclusions of Dr. Tueller, among others, were as follows:
° The protection of the Ballardini Ranch is critical for the long-term survival of the mule deer herd in the Truckee Meadows.
° If the Ballardini Ranch is developed and not acquired for public use, the Arrowcreek/dedicated property, consisting of approximately 1,400 acres, would be insufficient to protect the deer herd and assure its survival on the Truckee Meadows side of the Toiyabe National Forest.
° The acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch through a combination of funds from the Washoe County bond issue, and federal funding, working in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, would provide a unique partnership which would benefit all governmental entities and, of paramount importance, the citizens of Truckee Meadows.
° If the Ballardini Ranch is not acquired for open space public use and as a permanent refuge for wildlife, the Forest Service land adjacent to the Ballardini Ranch in the Toiyabe National Forest would lose substantial value because those lands would no longer be able to provide a refuge for deer herd and that portion of the Toiyabe National Forest would be lost as a valuable wildlife refuge because of the loss of the Ballardini Ranch.
The relationship of the Ballardini Ranch to the Arrowcreek dedicated property can be found in a document entitled "Southwest Truckee Meadows Open Space and Public Use Plan" at the conclusion of, and as part of, the Tueller Report.
6. Recent Action by the Regional Transportation Commission Protecting the Ballardini Ranch
An important recognition of the value of the Ballardini Ranch, and a need to take strong governmental measures to protect it, occurred by decision of the Regional Transportation Commission 2030 Steering Committee (the "2030 Steering Committee") which was created by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) with the specific charge of making recommendations regarding the transportation system for the next 30 years.
The 2030 Steering Committee conducted hearings for approximately 24 months over the new road system for the next 30 years. The study included the advisability of a "Southwest Cutoff" which would constitute a two-four lane road from McCarran Boulevard to the Mount Rose Highway through the Ballardini Ranch and the Arrowcreek Development. Studies were done with respect to the implications of this. The Steering Committee was made aware of the Ballardini Ranch as a critical part of a Land Use and Transportation Plan adopted by the Southwest Truckee Meadows Citizens Advisory Board in 1984 (and approved by the Washoe County Commission), the bond issue approved by the voters in 2000 (based upon collective votes of Washoe County Commission, Reno City Council, and Sparks City Council), the Tueller Report issued in 2000, and the desire on the part of the citizenry to retain the property for access to the Toiyabe National Forest. In addition, Bruce Arkell, a former staff member of the RTC, and now a private traffic consultant in both northern and southern Nevada on large highway projects, performed an analysis that showed the Southwest Cutoff would have devastating effects on the future of the area, and put unacceptable stresses on the transportation system in the Truckee Meadows.
After taking into consideration the devastating effects construction of the Southwest Cutoff would have on the Ballardini Ranch and the Arrowcreek Development, how it would interfere with the efforts to acquire the ranch through public funding and the expressed will of the voter to utilize the funds for the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch, and the stresses it would cause on the transportation system as a whole, the 2030 Steering Committee recommended against construction of any Southwest Cutoff and, accordingly, removed it from the map to be considered by the RTC.
The RTC, sitting as the supervising entity of the 2030 Steering Committee, upheld the decision of the 2030 Steering Committee and, accordingly, there is presently no proposed road such as the Southwest Cutoff through the Ballardini Ranch or the Arrowcreek dedicated property, for the next 30 years.
7. Process Leading Up To and Decision Regarding Adoption of the Washoe County Comprehensive Regional Plan by the Regional Planning Governing Board on May 9, 2002 and the Implications for the Ballardini Ranch
The Regional Planning process in Washoe County sparked a method by which to both educate the public officials and the citizenry regarding the Ballardini Ranch and also test the resolve of the local planning committees and the governmental entities with respect to the value of preserving the Ballardini Ranch for the citizens of the Truckee Meadows and providing a permanent access to the U.S. Forest Service.
The process was lengthy, and there were many hearings of citizens throughout the 24-month process leading up to the adoption of an update to the Washoe County Comprehensive Regional Plan, which occurs every five years. At issue with respect to the Ballardini Ranch was whether or not the Regional Planning Governing Board would determine to extend the SOI of the City of Reno and the Truckee Meadows Services Area (TMSA) into the entire Ballardini Ranch. It also befell the Regional Planning Governing Board to determine whether or not to leave the SOI and TMSA the same as when Evans Creek LLC acquired the Ballardini Ranch on May 11, 1998. The consequence of the decision was a determination as to whether or not the City of Reno would send a signal to the owner that it was ripe for development and that the City was interested in development, as opposed to preserving it.
On May 7, 2002, John Hester, in the Planning Department of the City of Reno, advised that the initial draft Comprehensive Regional Plan which was circulated included the SOI and TMSA in the southern half of the Ballardini ranch because, following the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch by the Minnesota owner/developer, the owner had made an application to annex the property. Mr. Hester indicated that his department was under instructions from the Reno City Council. On that day Mr. Hester also advised the Reno City Council to include in the initial draft all property for which annexation had previously been sought. On that day, May 7, 2002, Mr. Hester also advised the Reno Council that the Planning Department of the City of Reno proposed the status quo for the Ballardini Ranch, namely, no further extension of the SOI into the southern half of the Ballardini Ranch, and no further extension of the TMSA into the southern half of the Ballardini Ranch.
B. Action of the Regional Planning Commission on April 24, 2000
At present the SOI of the City of Reno extends to the northern one-half of the Ballardini Ranch. It does not extend into the southern half of the Ballardini Ranch. During the hearings before the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) in April, a draft proposal (which recommended the SOI of the City of Reno to be included in the entire Ballardini Ranch as well as the TMSA) was vigorously opposed by POW and citizens from the entire Truckee Meadows.
The RPC fully understood the consequences of including the SOI and TMSA in the southern half of the Ballardini Ranch and the negative effect it would have on the ability to negotiate for the property. It also clearly understood the long-term land use, which was in existence for the Ballardini Ranch prior to 1984, but was confirmed in 1984 by the Southwest Truckee Meadows Land Use and Transportation Plan.
On April 24, 2002, the RPC voted to exclude the SOI and the TMSA from the southern half of the Ballardini Ranch. At the same time the RPC expressed an interest in examining whether or not the SOI and TMSA of the City of Reno should be excluded from the northern half as well. However, it was unclear whether the RPC had jurisdiction to do so. Counsel for the RPC, which is from the office of the Attorney General located in Carson City, was not present, due to a traffic emergency that was caused by a shooting in Pleasant Valley. In the absence of legal counsel, and in view of the uncertainty that existed, the RPC declined to vote on that issue.
C. Annexation Petition Filed April 29, 2002
As stated above, on April 29, 2002, the Minnesota owner of the Ballardini Ranch filed a petition for annexation of the entire Ballardini Ranch to the City of Reno. As discussed below, the Regional Planning Governing Board was not daunted by this and determined to adopt the Comprehensive Regional Plan which would provide for the status quo, thus sending a signal that, once again, the will of the public, and of the governmental entities should be respected.
D. Regional Planning Governing Board Decision on May 9, 2002
At a packed hearing before the Regional Planning Governing Board on May 9, 2002, the Regional Planning Governing Board (RPGB) upheld the status quo.
Some certain members of the RPGB stated that they had never received any more public input on any issue during their public life than the input they received, supporting preservation of the Ballardini Ranch, in connection with the adoption of the Comprehensive Regional Plan.
As a result of the fact that the room was filled with supporters of the Ballardini Ranch, and overcrowded, Jeff Griffin, Mayor of the City of Reno, moved to modify the agenda at the outset of the meeting to immediately consider the Ballardini Ranch issue first. That motion was seconded and approved. Thereafter, Mayor Griffin moved that the status quo of the Ballardini Ranch be maintained, the motion was seconded and unanimously approved by all members of the RPGB. The RPGB consists of members of the Reno City Council, Sparks City Council, and Washoe County Commission. After the Ballardini Ranch issue was voted upon, most of the people left, with the RPGB able to continue its hearing, which lasted approximately eight more hours.
The decision of the RPGB on May 9, 2002 sent a clear, collective statement that it is the will of the government to protect the Ballardini Ranch, to the extent reasonably possible, for ultimate acquisition for the public and visitors of the Truckee Meadows.
E. Editorial/Citizen Support
It is generally recognized that the effort of the citizenry in Truckee Meadows to place the Ballardini Ranch in public hands is probably the most sustained, vigorous, and fervent of any citizen in the Truckee Meadows, certainly in the last two decades. This effort is borne upon the recognition of a need for public access to the Toiyabe National Forest from the Truckee Meadows, recognition of its pristine beauty, recognition that the mule deer habitat is in a fragile environment which will likely not permit them to survive in a difficult winter without the forage and refuge afforded by the Ballardini Ranch (which is not sufficient with the Arrowcreek property, standing alone).
The Arrowcreek property does augment, but does not supplant, the refuge and habitat that would be provided to the mule deer under stress conditions. Further, the value of the Toiyabe National Forest as a habitat for wildlife, principally mule deer, would be substantially lost if the Ballardini Ranch was not augmented to assure survival during high stress times.
In the 20-year period during which the public has been involved in the efforts to obtain acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch for public open space and access to forest lands, there has been no governmental action taken, local or otherwise, which would interfere with the possible opportunity to acquire the Ballardini Ranch. There has not been one negative editorial, or any citizen group opposing the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch. In fact, on May 8, 2002 the Reno Gazette-Journal and the Sparks Tribune both issued very strong editorials supporting the ultimate acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch.
We hope that your Executive Committee will, consistent with the criteria under which you must operate, determine that the Ballardini Ranch be placed in a category of highest priority for consideration for funding under Round 3.
As you can see from the materials you have received today, including those which accompany this letter, and as indicated above, acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch for public use fits within the ìranking factorsî which are required to be considered in connection with the ranking and funding of properties under consideration under the SNPLMA. Acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch would contribute substantially toward the promotion of biological diversity in the area, since it would provide the single remaining factor necessary to maintain the wildlife deer herd in the Truckee Meadows. Acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch would preserve the significant national features, including access to a very important part of the history of the Truckee Meadows, namely the flume that brought water to the Truckee Meadows in the late 1800's. The Ballardini Ranch contains a watershed that provides substantial public benefit, including protection of the Evans Creek Stream traveling through the Ballardini Ranch 12 months out of the year. It completely enhances recreation opportunities, providing the single and only reasonable access to the Toiyabe National Forest from the Truckee Meadows. This acquisition would prevent imminent or planned property development as determined by local governmental entities unanimously for several years to be ideally suited for open space for public use. It involves a unique opportunity for a partnership with Washoe County, which will provide $4 million toward the acquisition, development and/or management of the ranch. Certainly the acquisition has the support of local government and other interested parties. For those reasons we respectfully submit it deserves the highest priority in Round 3 for consideration for funding.
PROTECT OUR WASHOESteven T. Walther
cc:Michael Dwyer, SNPLMA Manager
Bureau of Land Management
Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senator
Honorable James Gibbons
United States Congressman
Robert Vaught, Forest Supervisor
U.S. Forest Service
P. O. Box 20397
Reno, NV 89515
may send your contribution to help fund the fight to the above address. Thank
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