At its regular meeting next week, the Reno City Council will conduct the first required review of the development agreement that sets the terms of developing the west end of downtown Reno, the so-called “Neon Line District.” The development agreement is between the City of Reno and entities controlled by casino owner Jeff Jacobs.
The Neon Line District was devised and named by Jacobs who drew a line around all the properties surrounding the area of west Fourth Street from West Street to Keystone Avenue and Second Street on the south to Interstate 80, including properties not legally owned by the Jacobs entities that signed the development agreement with the City.
This is another chance to share your concerns regarding the contract between the city and the Jacobs entities, which included the three large signs Scenic Nevada opposed in a lawsuit filed last year. You can contact the council by sending an email to Publiccomment@reno.gov.
This past week, Scenic Nevada filed a cross-appeal to appeals filed by the Jacobs entities and the City from a district court ruling that prohibits two of the signs included in the development agreement. There are now two appeals plus Scenic Nevada’s cross-appeal pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.
District Court Judge Connie J. Steinheimer ruled that the city is prohibited from granting building permits for those two signs, finding that one was an illegal billboard and the other violated the height limits of Reno’s city codes. But she allowed the third sign – the proposed Archway sign spanning West Fourth Street – that we contested. We also had asked the judge to void the entire development agreement for alleged state law violations, but the judge denied that challenge and left the development agreement intact, minus the two signs.
The Scenic Nevada Board of Directors did not expect to be appealing from Judge Steinheimer’s October ruling, until Jacobs and the city filed their appeals about two weeks ago to overturn her decision. See our alert discussing the city’s appeal. Now that the district court ruling is up for review, Scenic Nevada will ask the Supreme Court to review Judge Steinheimer’s decision upholding the overall validity of the development agreement. We filed our cross-appeal on November 3.
In all civil appeals, parties are invited to participate in a Supreme Court-sponsored mediation process. If mediation fails, the Supreme Court will review and decide for itself how the issues should be decided. Anything could happen.
As we told the council in the public meeting last month, no one knows what the Supreme Court will do. One or more parties may benefit from the Supreme Court’s review. But there is a risk to every party, if the appeals proceed, that the outcome could be less favorable to that party than Judge Steinheimer’s decision.
Development Agreement Review
The Neon Line Development Agreement approved in October of 2021 requires reviews of the 20-year contract. The first one, landing on the agenda next week, must occur a year after the effective date of the agreement, which was November 21, 2022, when it was legally recorded. The Jacobs entities are required to provide an updated report every two years thereafter. Read the staff report.
The staff report includes a table that lists the contract terms to be discussed plus a summary and status update of each item. The terms include proposed improvements in the district, including streetlights, pedestrian amenities, sewer connection fee credits, a casino skyway, electric charging stations and the three large signs that Scenic Nevada opposed in its lawsuit.
Interestingly, the staff describes all three signs as “area identification signs,” even though the district judge’s order ruled that two of them are not area identification signs and prohibited the city from issuing building permits for them. In her order she said one was a billboard and another was an on-premises sign. Only the third – the Archway sign – was found by the judge to be an area identification sign. Read the judge’s order.
Under the sign status in the staff report, it says, “the area identification signs are currently pending legal preceding’s (sic) related” to the lawsuit and appeals.
We’re not certain what the council will discuss next week. But at the last council meeting three members said the city’s appeal should not include the three proposed signs. Council Member Meghan Ebert voted against filing an appeal altogether, citing the cost to taxpayers and her position that the Jacobs entities should fight their own legal battles because the signs would advertise Jacobs’ trademarked Neon Line District benefiting his businesses.
Many of you voiced your concerns two weeks ago about filing the appeal, with five people showing up to oppose and another 24 sending in written public comments voicing their concerns. The outcome was that while the vote was to appeal, the city’s attorney’s office was instructed to limit it and not to oppose the Judge’s ruling on the signs or our right to sue (standing). We think your participation helped.
The City Council will be meeting on Wednesday, November 15 at 10 AM and the Neon Line agreement is scheduled to be discussed as agenda item D.2. Click here to see the full agenda.
Please send a message to the City Council by:
- Attending the meeting on Wednesday, November 15 at 10 AM
- Leaving a voicemail at (775) 393-4499
- Submitting an online comment at www.Reno.Gov/PublicComment
- Sending an email to Publiccomment@reno.gov
- Virtually attending the hearing and providing comment live online. Please pre-register using this link: https://links.reno.gov/3ZAhNkJ
We appreciate your attention to this community issue. Even if you’ve written before, don’t miss this chance to weigh in again. Without your support, we couldn’t continue our work.