City of Sparks one step closer to annexing thousands of acres

Noah Bond looks at efforts to expand the city of Sparks by 40,000 acres.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 3:04 PM PDT
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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) are set to release their own bills in the coming days or weeks to annex roughly 40,000 acres owned by the Federal Government into the City of Sparks.

The land in question is in an area east of Sparks, north of I-80, and ends in the area north of USA Parkway.

City of Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson says he supports this proposal because the remaining land in Sparks left to develop is forecast to run out around the year 2027.

Once construction stops, property tax revenues to pay for services like roads, police, and fire crews will begin to decline.

This would likely result in serious financial problems for the City of Sparks.

“The State of Nevada is the last State in the Union that has this regressive property tax, where the day the property hits the tax rolls it immediately starts to depreciate and will depreciate over the next 50 years,” said Stonegate Master Plan Community Developer, Don Pattalock.

Nevada’s property tax rate starts at 35 percent of a property’s assessed value and it drops 1.5 percent each year for 50 years until the rate bottoms out at between 10 and 12 percent. The rate never resets even if the home is sold.

This leaves elected officials with dwindling funds to pay for growing expenses.

“If we don’t grow we don’t add police or fire or parks and we don’t maintain streets. We will eventually go backwards in all the services we provide,” Mayor Lawson said.

The pro-growth property tax plan is here to stay because it’s written into Nevada’s State Constitution.

It would take two votes of the legislature and a vote of the people to make a change.

All of these realities are pushing Sparks City leaders to look for some way to expand.

One option is to construct high density homes in tall buildings.

“And when we go up, we get more expensive. So, we become San Francisco of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and I don’t want to be San Francisco,” said Mayor Lawson.

The second option is the Landsbill. It would annex about 40,000 acres into the City of Sparks, but this action requires the approval of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives along with President Biden’s signature.

The bills drafted by Sen. Rosen’s team and Rep. Amodei’s team are the first drafts for northern Nevadans to look at and discuss for revision and changes before a final draft is presented to lawmakers in Washington D.C.

Rep. Amodei says he’s happy to introduce this bill on the condition the voices of leaders in Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County are largely unified.

“It’s a challenge and it takes a lot of work. Until the Fallon expansion for the Navy out there, we hadn’t passed a Landsbill since Harry Reid was in the Senate. They’re hard things to do,” Rep. Amodei said.

Official statements about the Landsbill from the City of Sparks, Washoe County, City of Reno, and Sen. Jacky Rosen are below.

City of Sparks Official Statement:

“Obviously we’re in favor of it. Sparks is running out of land, and we still need to grow. That means we go up and when we go up, we get more expensive. We become the San Francisco of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and I don’t want to be San Francisco. I want to be Sparks and that’s what the Landsbill allows us to do. We’d like to take back our river and move the industrial area east, closest to the employment center. We’ve heard about the recent Tesla announcements and some other businesses that are moving out there. We can expect these businesses to employ upwards of 50,000 people. While some of those families will live in Storey County, as many as eighty percent of them will live here in Reno and Sparks because we have the amenities. We’ve been saying this for the past six years. We want to grow smarter and stronger and that’s what the Landsbill will help us do.

SOURCE: Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson and Sparks Community Relations Manager Julie Duewel

Washoe County Official Statement:

“Senator Rosen’s Office will remain the lead on the Washoe County Public Lands Management Act and has continued to work with Congress and all of the involved stakeholders. It is anticipated that information regarding language and maps will be available for public input mid March at”

SOURCE: Washoe County Media and Communications Manager, Bethany Drysdale

City of Reno Official Statement:

“The City of Reno remains prepared to discuss and review a federal lands bill proposal when it is drafted. The City’s efforts on this initiative will focus on providing for economic opportunities consistent with regional planning principles that promote sustainable growth and efficient growth patterns in our region as well as furthering conservation by designating appropriate wilderness areas and providing funding for habitat restoration and other conservation activities. The City will remain neutral on the legislation until specific details are provided, and support for any effort will be determined when sufficient details are available for review.

SOURCE: City of Reno Communications Program Manager, Cassie Harris

U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen Official Statement:

“My office is working closely with stakeholders to put together a Landsbill that can meet the needs of Washoe County and the growing Reno-Sparks community while also balancing conservation and existing public land uses, and delivering for our Tribal communities. I look forward to sharing a discussion draft of this legislation soon.”

SOURCE: U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen Spokesperson, Renzo Olivari