City of Reno, Washoe County, Fight Over Planning Board Seats - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

City of Reno, Washoe County, Fight Over Planning Board Seats

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The body of public officials responsible for regional planning in the Truckee Meadows has filed a lawsuit against Washoe County over a dispute about representation.

The squabble is regarding the number of seats on the Regional Planning Governing Board, which is made up of representatives from the city councils of Reno and Sparks and the Washoe County Commission. The board crafts policies governing issues like growth management, land use, water use, and traffic management.

Washoe County has proposed a bill for the upcoming legislative session which would take one seat away from the City of Reno, and allow the county more flexibility in choosing who it appoints to the board.

Now, some board members have filed suit to stop that bill from moving forward. They say it violates the rules governing the board, which stipulate that all members must be informed if one entity is seeking a legislative change.

"They have to provide proper notice to the other entities to have the necessary public conversation before the legislation is pursued in Carson City," board member from Reno, David Bobzien said, "and the governing board's perspective is that that was not followed."

Bobzien said he and other members were not informed that the county would submit this bill, so they're asking the courts to stop it.

Representatives from the county did not deny that charge. County Commissioner and board member Marsha Berkbigler said she was under the impression that all members had been informed, but she was mistaken. Still, she said the changes stipulated in the bill are necessary.

"Our intention in introducing this legislation had nothing to do with trying to create a problem for Reno or Sparks at all," Berkbigler said. "We just simply want it to be a level playing field, and we don't think it is."

Currently, the governing board has four seats for Reno, three for Sparks, and three for Washoe County. Berkbigler said, as the area's population grows, that unequal representation is antiquated. She said most of the growth is happening in unincorporated parts of Washoe County, rather than within city limits.

"We have great relationships with the cities, but they are within the footprint of the county," Berkbigler said. "The county is the greater government."

Bobzien disagrees. He said the structure of the board, which has been in place for three decades, makes sense, since the city has primary jurisdiction for land use within city limits, and that's where most of the population is.

"In reality, [the change] would be a diminishment of the urban voice, representative of planning efforts that happen for the two cities," Bobzien said.

He called the issue a "distraction" from planning efforts underway by the governing board. They are currently in the process of revising the region's master plan.

"Right when we are trying to prepare for this update for the regional plan, we are having to spend time and focus on this conversation about the proper structure of the Regional Planning Governing Board," Bobzien said.

The issue is now up to the courts. If the judge rules that the correct procedures were followed in the submission of the bill, then the bill goes on to the legislature for consideration. The legislative session opens on Monday.

You can read the full text of the bill here.

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