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Sparks master plan: follow or ignore?
by Ira Hansen
Feb 16, 2008 | 1811 views | 3 3 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Dec. 6, 2007, in a rather awkward diatribe, Sparks City Staff Planner Tim Thompson while testifying before the Sparks Planning Commission attacked the city’s own master plan, basically claiming the document that has guided the city since 1991 was archaic and no longer worthy of being followed.

Why? Simple. If the Sparks master plan and its policies and guidelines were carefully followed, the land use change Thompson was promoting would fail miserably.

In fairness to Thompson, he is in an awkward position. After having carefully reviewed his remarks, it is clear his heart was not in what he was saying. Someone much higher in the Sparks government food chain was putting heat on the planning staff to ramrod the change through — master plan be damned.

The Sparks master plan is actually a remarkably well-thought-out document. It is designed to represent the long-term goals of the citizens of Sparks and how they want to see the city develop.

In fact, an entire section of the document is a series of professionally conducted surveys of citizens of Sparks and their answers form the basis, the foundation, for the decision making process, and growth patterns for the city.

The desires of Sparks citizens were coupled with designs created through an additional series of meetings, workshops and public hearings with engineers, developers, school district officials, traffic planners, sewer water and storm drainage experts, electric and gas officials, Washoe County officials, BLM representatives, land owners and just about everyone else the city could find who had an input on how Sparks’ future should evolve.

It was a monumental task, and the synthesis is a notably thorough piece of work. Instead of the helter-skelter patchwork of the past, which changed with anyone’s whim, the master plan became the growth bible for Sparks. Growth now had policies and a blueprint the whole city agreed to follow.

And follow the plan it did. The whole Wingfield area has in fact been built with only very minor adjustments, in almost perfect accord to the original master plan. A review of the original design, the housing densities, the commercial nodes, the open spaces, the pathways and parks are consistent, a tribute to both the designs and the willingness of the city staff to insist development and developers stay within its parameters.

(The only major monkey wrench thrown in has been the failure of the traffic designs and road networks to keep pace, but that is fodder for a future column.)

In theory, all developers are equal, but the truth is some are more equal than others. Two huge violations of the master plan are, not surprisingly, both the work of the same developer, Harvey Whittemore.

In case you’re new to Sparks, Whittemore successfully forced into the Spanish Springs area — and in an area never designed for one on the master plan — a casino, the “Lazy 8.” Despite the casino being voted down by both the Sparks City Council and the Sparks Planning Commission, Whittemore successfully bullied his way through by threatening the city with a $100 million lawsuit.

The cowering Sparks City Attorney’s office had closed-door meetings with the City Council and, without a public hearing, the City Council reversed themselves. Whittemore won his case by default.

Fortunately, John Ascuaga’s Nugget took the whole case to court. The master plan and the failure of the Lazy 8 to comply is a major basis of their suit. The case is pending.

But back to Thompson. Why the rather coerced-sounding dismissal of the policies and checks and balances of the master plan? Well, it is none other than Harvey Whittemore who is trying to once again force a grotesquely non-compliant project into existence. The proposed 60-acre monstrosity will sit in the dead center of the brand new $25 million regional park and could have up to 1,300 “multi-family dwellings” on land the master plan has zoned for a maximum density of only two houses per acre.

Fortunately the whole thing has tipped over a beehive of neighborhood opposition in Wingfield with residents already mad about overcrowded schools and roads and with declining property values to boot. They are in a fightin’ mood.

So, it boils down to Harvey Whittemore and the kowtowing city staff vs. the citizens of Wingfield and the master plan. The Sparks Planning Commission meets this Thursday. I will keep you posted.

Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks, owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing and his radio talk show can be heard Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. on 99.1 FM.
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February 18, 2008
What’s this guy’s problem with Whittemore? First the Lazy 8, now a harmless development close to his house. If there is a local issue talked about in this very column, it’s just about a slam-dunk that it’ll be about Whittemore or the “corrupt” city of Sparks. The same goes or for his radio station. My theory: poor writer, crappy radio personality drums up “controversial” issues to sell papers and get people to listen to the radio. Sparks Trib – you just lost a subscriber!
February 18, 2008
Perhaps the most glaring omission from Hansen’s vile diatribe was who is the plumbing contractor for the regional sports complex??? You guessed it… Ira Hansen & Son’s Plumbing contractors.

The man is the essence of corruption and greed. My guess is that there was no Sparks Trib opinion piece slamming the city of Sparks for building the sports complex. Why’s that? Because Hansen got the contract.

It’s interesting that Hansen thinks there is great opposition to this project. Having watched it unfold on SNCAT, it appears that outside of 3 or so people, the Hansen family, of which there are many, is the bulk of opposition.

Being a Nevadan, I would bet my kid’s college tuition that if Hansen got the contract for the 60-acre project, there would be no opposition. By the way, since when is 60 acres considered a monstrosity?

So, Whittemore will not associate himself with Hansen, personally or professionally… there lies the rub. Don’t sell out Harvey!

February 18, 2008
Reading this jackasse's comments makes me wonder how Sparks ever got developed in the first place.I am sure Ira would rather lord over his little isolated compound in the desert, sticking his head in the lastet blue sani hut dye and let the world go by.

In a feeble attempt to dredge up some credibility, Ira claims to be a "lifetime resident of Sparks". Ira, grow a pair and admit you live in Washoe County, not Sparks.

People like Ira Hansen will always be around to complain about a community like Wingfield Springs and those who had the courage & vision to risk everything to bring such a community to Sparks. Instead of seeing the enhanced quality of life such a community brings, Ira will blame greed, unscrupulous developers and cowardly public officials who did not buy Ira's short sighted ignorance.

Ira, instead of whining in public, why dont you try to make a real difference in Sparks government? Come on Ira,run for some public office in Sparks. What? You say you cant run for office in Sparks? Oh, that's right, you arent a Sparks resident are you?

Next time you are down repairing some septic tank Ira, I'm sure you will discover not only a true likeness of yourself, but smell the reasoning behind your rants.
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