Rezoning standards for the Transit Oriented Development plan got a first reading Monday at Sparks City Council, proposing a rezone for most of the area between Vista Boulevard and the city’s western limits. The item’s second reading, and an opportunity for the public to chime in on the plan, will be held at the council’s July 27 meeting.
“One of (the goals) is to promote reinvestment and revitalization in the core area of the city,” said Sparks senior planner Jim Rundle.
The plan will change zoning and planning standards in a large part of Sparks to allow for higher neighborhood densities. The plan’s new zoning standards would also encourage more foot traffic and a strengthened public transit system.
City redevelopment manager Armando Ornelas added that residents may see a “more compact, more walkable” kind of city in Sparks’ future.
The TOD Corridor consists of 2,360 acres north of Interstate 80 and south of Prater Way. The area starts at Sparks’ city limits on the west and ends just beyond Vista Boulevard.
The large area is split into four distinct sections that have their own unique planning rules, Rundle said.
Starting on the west end, the land between El Rancho Drive and Pyramid Way would be labeled as the “West End Downtown Sparks Center District.” The “Central/I-80 District” would be sandwiched between Pyramid Way and McCarran Boulevard. The “Sparks Marina District” would sit between McCarran Boulevard and Sparks Boulevard. And the “Employment District” would reach from Sparks Boulevard east past Vista Boulevard.
While each of these areas will have area-specific density and zoning standards, development would still be based on a transit-oriented theme.
The change in the city may not come overnight, Ornelas said. Rather, the plan is meant to provide a framework and foundation for future developers.
One small but important part of the plan is Victorian Square. The square hosts many of Sparks’ largest special events, including the Sparks Hometowne Farmer’s Market, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off and Hot August Nights.
“Our hope is that at some point the folks can walk and live near some of the special events in the area,” Rundle said.
However, Ornelas added that there is no specific objective related to special events in the plan.
One objective that the planners said they do have is to encourage reinvestment in the area.
Victorian Square reinvestment has seen its high and low spots in the past year as a developer has come and gone from the area.
A batch of grand plans for Victorian Square, which included 171 town homes, crumbled in April 2008 when developer Trammell Crow backed out of a development agreement with the city of Sparks.
"It was a combination of high construction costs, declining sales demand, declining prices in the market and a difficult loan market (for buyers to obtain financing)," Gary Duhon, area director for Trammell Crow for northern Nevada, told the Tribune in 2008. "Those are problems that plague the entire country, as well as this market. Victorian Square is not unique in this regard."
According to Ornelas and Rundle, the new development standards would have expedited the Trammell Crow project.
“With (the Trammell Crow project) we had to remaster plan, we had to rezone the project, all of which took a substantial amount of time,” Rundle said. “If we were in the same boat now … we would do a 30-day review and have a building permit within a few weeks. (The new TOD standards) would provide efficiency in review of projects.”
“We are looking to facilitate higher-density mixed use development to make it more straightforward to entitle that project,” Ornelas said.
The Transit Oriented Development standards have been approved by the Regional Planning Commission. The plan is now entering its final phases and will appear before the public again on July 27.