What casino projects are proposed for south Reno?
Station Casinos of Las Vegas has purchased two large parcels of land in South Reno for casino development.
The first site is 83 acres located at the southwest corner of South Virginia Street and Mt. Rose Highway and is currently not zoned for gaming. The proposed project is across the street from the Summit Sierra mall project, which is currently under construction. In this website, this site is called the “Summit Sierra” casino project.
In addition, Station Casinos recently purchased the former “Steamboat Station” casino site, a 96-acre property on the other side of South Virginia. A casino for that site was approved for Boyd Gaming over 10 years ago by Washoe County. The casino is limited to no more than 347 rooms and 33,500 square feet of gaming space.
Station Casinos has also purchased land near the convention center and intends to develop a boutique hotel casino at that site.
What government approvals are required for the south Reno casino project(s)?
The Summit Sierra casino site, located at the southwest corner of South Virginia Street and Mt. Rose Highway, is not currently zoned for gaming. According to the Reno Gazette, Station Casinos’ “top priority” is to develop a casino at this site, rather than the “Steamboat Station” site.
To build a casino at the Summit Sierra site, the company needs two fundamental changes to Reno’s existing Master Plan:
1. Master Plan Policy Amendment. The City of Reno is proposing a new master plan policy to allow nonrestricted gaming (i.e. full-blown hotel-casinos) in the Mt. Rose Highway and South Virginia Street area (called “Redfield Regional Center”). Currently, casinos are prohibited in this area.
2. Redfield Regional Center Plan. In addition, the City of Reno is also drawing up a “Redfield Regional Center Plan” that will specifically allow nonrestricted gaming at the Summit Sierra casino site. In addition, the Plan would allow the Steamboat Station gaming entitlement to “remain in effect until it is utilized or an alternative development proposal is approved on that property.”
Both of these master plan amendments need to be approved by (1) the Reno Planning Commission; (2) the Reno City Council; and (3) the Regional Planning Commission. In addition, Washoe County will play a role in the process.
The “Steamboat Station” site is not in conformance with the City of Reno’s Master Plan, which does not currently allow gaming in the Mt. Rose/Virginia Street area (the Steamboat Station is not prohibited because it was “grandfathered” in through a Washoe County approval ten years ago). As a result, Station Casinos is currently limited to the old design approved ten years ago by Washoe County.
If the company wishes to make any major changes to the old design (which is highly likely) — including expanding the size of the project — Station Casinos would be required to apply for a “special use permit” from the City of Reno and meet a number of standards. The Reno Planning Commission and City Council would be required to vote on the special use permit. In addition to these obstacles to developing the site, the property also has two creeks running through the property, making development difficult.
Are there any limitations on the size and height of the proposed casino(s)?
Currently, the site of the proposed Summit Sierra casino site is located in the Mt. Rose Scenic Corridor, which limits building height to 35 feet. However, City of Reno is proposing in the Redfield Regional Center Plan to exempt the Summit Sierra casino from these height restrictions. And while casinos in Reno have a variety of limitations on gaming square footage and distance to residential areas, these requirements would not apply to the Summit Sierra casino site. The City of Reno is basically providing a “blank check” to the developer when it comes to the height and size of the project.
Station Casinos told its investors that it intends to build something similar or smaller to the first phase of its Green Valley Ranch hotel-casino in southern Nevada. That hotel-casino currently has almost 500 rooms, more than 90,000 sq.ft. of casino space (comparable to the Silver Legacy in downtown Reno), and over 2,000 slot machines.
The Steamboat Station site is currently limited to 69 feet in height and 33,500 square feet of gaming space. Under current rules, the company would be required to apply for a special use permit to change the size and scale of the project.
What else is the City of Reno planning for the area?
Aside from creating a large area zoned for hotel-casino development, the proposed Redfield Regional Center Plan will encourage more commercial development, the establishment of a 500,000 square foot University of Nevada Redfield Campus, and high-density (minimum 14-18 units per acre) residential development projects.
Is the City of Reno encouraging public participation in the process?
The City of Reno seems intent on discouraging public participation when it comes to their plans for casino development in South Reno. For example, the Neighborhood Advisory Boards (NAB) – boards made up of Reno citizens to provide input on planning and zoning issues – were not even provided a copy of the full Redfield Regional Center Plan when asked for comment, nor was a copy available to the public before the NAB meetings.