“Do not rubber stamp extensions,” he said in comments before the commission.
A short while later, the commission approved by unanimous vote a special-use permit for Olympia Gaming, the hotel-casino developers, to build the project. The permit replaces a previously expired license.
Schmidt, who describes himself as a community activist and who has campaigned for the Washoe County Board of Commissioners and State Senate in recent years, was unhappy with the outcome. He let it be known that he thought the commission had predetermined its vote before the public hearing.
Commissioner Jackie Peterson directed an on-the-record rebuke at Schmidt, saying no political influence or prior determination was made to approve the nonrestricted gaming permit.
Upon review and approval by the Regional Planning Commission, and so long as no appeals are filed before the Sparks City Council, Olympia Gaming will proceed with the multi-phase development, known as Legends Bay Casino Resort. It will occupy 13 acres on the east shore of the Sparks Marina, north of Interstate 80. No break-ground date has been set.
The first phase includes construction of a 64,000-square-foot casino and 201-room hotel with future expansions to include a 330-foot tall, 600-room tower, a convention center, indoor pool, 1600-space parking area and restaurant and retail developments. The total build-out cost is about $185 million, according to commission reports, and all funding will come from private investments.
The Legends at Sparks Marina Planned Development Handbook, which establishes building guidelines and regulations for the shopping center, allows for only two phases of development for any given project. Since Legends Bay is expected to exceed this limitation, an amendment will likely be approved to allow for additional development phases, said Tim Thompson, senior planner for the cityworks department, at Thursday’s commission meeting.
Schmidt believes such an amendment would signal a blow to market forces, which, as a self-identified Blue Dog Democrat and free-market defender, he believes should determine the viability of proposed developments.
Schmidt explained his objections in an interview with the Sparks Tribune on Friday.
Schmidt said he is concerned that construction of the hotel and casino could continue indefinitely and in perpetuity because no time limit or completion date has been mandated.
“There is no end in sight,” Schmidt said. “It’s not fair. It’s not good planning. It’s a gift (the developers) didn’t earn or deserve.”
Ultimately, the market will determine the construction time frame and even whether current proposals will come to fruition. Schmidt said the absence of a time limit, however, means competition is unduly locked out, essentially granting Olympia Gaming a monopoly on the area. Schmidt believes all phases of the development should be subject to individual permitting in order to allow competing developers an opportunity to engage the market at the Legends at Sparks Marina.
Don Young, a Sparks resident whose home borders the development site, addressed other community concerns at Thursday’s commission meeting.
At his home Friday afternoon, Young explained some of the caveats he and his neighbors have brought before development and planning commission officials.
“The shadowing to the neighborhood is still a major concern but compared with the first project (proposals), this one is considerably better and has much less impact,” said Young, a former Washoe County senior planner.
Original plans included a much larger hotel tower. Studies showed that the tower could have serious shadowing effects on neighboring residences, limiting homeowners’ access to solar power resources. The new site proposals have been downsized to reflect community concerns, according to officials from Olympia Gaming.
Young has been intimately involved in coordinating a neighborhood response to the development since it was first proposed last year. His professional expertise allows him to see possible problems before they emerge.
“My main concern with the traffic is the new proposed roadway, which will interfere with the pedestrian and bike traffic on the existing path,” Young said.
Development plans include the construction of a new thoroughfare, dubbed Legends Bay Drive, which will allow for access to the hotel and casino. Young worries that the road will impede the pedestrian path, which circles the marina and extends to the shopping center, possibly creating unsafe conditions for users.
Young said he also is concerned that a 12-foot barrier wall between his neighborhood and the project site will not be completed before ground and foundation construction begins. He said it is essential for both limiting access to his neighborhood and reducing noise disturbances during construction phases.
Planning officials have added a condition that the wall be substantially completed before any vertical construction takes place. But Young said he might be forced to file an appeal with the Sparks City Council if he does not receive an assurance from developers that the wall will be finished prior to any construction.
Despite his concerns, Young sees many benefits associated with the project.
“I think it’s a good project for the most part,” he said.