White Collar Welfare Recipients Hunting For Handouts At The Storey County Courthouse
Barring an alien abduction of Commissioner Jack McGuffey or Marshall McBride, The Storey County Commissioners will hand over $20 million in future Storey County tax revenue to billion dollar global companies at TRIC by forming a Tax Increment Area (TIA) on the December 4th Commissioner Meeting. As we have reported, the TIA will reimburse TRIC companies for an effluent pipeline that will transport effluent from Sparks to a treatment center, a storage reservoir, and a pipeline distribution system that these same companies plan to spend over $120-150 million to build.
A reasonable person could conclude that if these companies are willing to commit those fat stacks to process and distribute the grey water, they could afford to keep their hands off our public taxes and build their pipeline too.
Sadly, Commissioners McGuffey and McBride are not such people.
The Pipeline, The Blockchains Smart City and Innovation Park, and Tesla’s Trailer Park will combine to have a significant impact on our way of life. It seems that all the players in Northern Nevada are hell-bent for growth for us at all costs. EDAWN, GOED, TRIC, and Storey County continue to put the interests of businesses ahead of residents with the assumption that these businesses will then pull us along in their draft and the newfound wealth will trickle down upon us.
Is this good or bad? Perhaps it’s just like anything else; the effect is positive or negative depending on who you are. So I ask you, is having 20,000 new Storey County residents at TRIC good for you?
The Blockchains Smart City Utopia
In October 2018, Blockchains CEO Jeffrey Burns announced his vision for a blockchains incubation campus located on the 67,000-acre expanse of barren desert he bought from Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman. You can read more about the announcement and watch Burns’s keynote address here.
Burns hopes his campus will attract companies from all over the world to develop the blockchain itself and drive innovation in much the same way as Virginia City drove engineering innovation in the 1870s. I like to say that Virginia City was the Silicon Valley of the 1870s because it brought people from all over the world to The Richest Place On Earth to work, hustle and innovate.
At the heart of his campus, dubbed the “Innovation Park”, is a “Smart City”. When pressed to explain what this actually means, Burns is long on pitch and short on detail.
Storey County Residents may remember the Sunny Hills and residential housing proposals. These developments failed in part to opposition by local residents. The memory of Corte Vista, in particular, helped forge the 2016 Master Plan which expressly forbids any residential development within the confines of TRIC.
So exactly how does Burns think he can build a 10,000 person Smart City inside the Innovation Park at TRIC? That’s what The Teller hoped to learn with a series of Public Record Requests recently filed with Storey County Officials. This article documents how the County answered that question (or not).
The Tesla Trailer Park
Before we learned about the Smart City, Elon Musk told the world that he needed to build a company town next to his Gigafactory. In a recent Las Vegas Review-Journal article, Musk is quoted as saying he wants to double the size of the Gigafactory, add 13,000 employees and build a company town. For that to happen, Musk says Storey County needs to offer more infrastructure like schools, buildings, roads, and affordable housing.
“We’re looking at creating a housing compound on site at the Gigafactory, using kind of high-quality mobile homes,” Musk told the RJ. Apparently, Elon hasn’t read the Storey County Master Plan. Or perhaps he is using his past experience dealing with Storey County and is expecting us, as we have done in the past, to cater to his every whim.
Anyone paying attention to Elon Musk knows that most of (if not all of) the time he is talking out of his neck. The number of times Elon has made claims that haven’t come true can’t be counted on the feet of a centipede. The likelihood of the Tesla Trailer Park coming to Storey County is as likely as the company producing 10,000 Model 3’s a week in 2019 (as he promised in 2017 he would in 2018). But will that stop him from trying? Probably not…
Elon will be looking to Storey County to flesh out the infrastructure for his company town. Awesome.
However, The Tesla Trailer Park isn’t the Smart City.
The Smart City; Is It A Vape Dream?
You would think that after years of development and a very recent approval, The Storey County Master Plan would be set in stone. However, within weeks of announcing the purchase of all available land at TRIC and hiring Lance Gilman and Kris Thompson as their Government Affairs liaisons, Blockchains has been trying to get a change in our Master Plan. This change will, among other things, completely and permanently shift the dynamics of the county. Folks who love the rural atmosphere may soon be outvoted and out-influenced by a bevy of vape-puffing, cryptocurrency toting Silicon Valley blue voting transplants.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Berns is hoping to create a blockchain utopia the size of Reno right here in our backyard. That would be great for developing the blockchain as a disruptive technology. I am all for that. The blockchain has the ability to uproot the power structure of our banking and government systems. While I am hopeful that it will, I remain skeptical that these vastly powerful entities would allow we the people to actually bypass them and pave the way for their irrelevancy.
If Berns can hasten along the reduction of the hands of the banks and governments around our throats, I am all in. However, whatever the eventual outcome of Berns changing the world may actually be, we should be wary of what it will do to us here in The Richest Place On Earth.
Public Record Requests – The Bane of Opacity
I am using the good old public record request to try to shed some light on what the intent and behavior of both Blockchains and Storey County are on this situation.
Here is the first document Austin Osborne sent me with the key sentence highlighted:
The Storey County Master Plan calls for 4000 residential units at Painted Rock. This letter from Blockchains is requesting to transfer 25% or 1000 units from Painted Rock to a development proposed by Emerald City Empire. Clearly not the Smart City announced in Prague by Burns. However, in the next document I got from Osborne, Pat Whitten is writing Governor Sandoval asking for his help to take the Opportunity Zone away from Lyon County and give it to TRIC.O Zone letter
As you can see from the highlighted bullet point, Pat Whitten knew about the 10,000 resident Smart City sometime before April 16th. One of the questions raised for me by this document is based on the March 14th letter above, these represent two separate modifications to the Master Plan. One for the 1000 homes transferred from Painted Rock to Emerald City and another modification allowing for the 10,000 resident Smart City suggested by Whitten in the April 16th letter to Sandoval.
As these documents reveal, Storey County has been aware of these plans for nearly a year, yet nobody in the public knows about this until Berns gave his keynote address. Heck, even Commissioner McGuffey was kept in the dark about this until the Berns Keynote spilled all the beans.
Corporate Housing, Apartments Or Residential Housing?
The next document I received dated July 24, 2018, is a “project update” from Morgan Lamb, a lawyer for Emerald City Empire, which will be developing the Emerald Lake development mentioned in the initial Blockchains letter. The letter is “an invitation to discuss topics of mutual concern”. It is sent to Pat Whitten, Austin Osborn, Bob Sader (Roger Norman’s lawyer), Randel Aleman (Emerald City Empire principal) and others I don’t recognize.Emerald City
This document summarizes the project potential and issues. In section II it talks about “residential housing is understandably prohibited in TRIC. Given certain details, we are allowed to de-annex a portion of the project to provide a separate Plan and GID for such possibility. This would allow individually owned residences” It goes on to say that this would have to be approved by the County. Section IV briefly discusses water noting that the inclusion of residential to the Commercial plan causes an increased need for water.
It should be obvious that in order to build the Emerald City Project with it’s proposed Movie Theaters, Shopping Centers and other businesses, a stable residential base would be required. Tesla and Switch employees would be unlikely to catch a movie or buy some groceries before heading home to Reno or Fernley. Without the water and residential neighborhoods needed for Emerald City, the project would be a flop.
Two things trouble me in this letter. One is the mention of the need for more water and the creation of a new GID, and two is the notion that USA Parkway is of shoddy construction. Both could be topics for future stories. The effluent carried in the taxpayer-funded pipeline could be treated into drinking water and the fact that it is common knowledge among those in the know that the infrastructure we owe Roger Norman $50 million for is known to be substandard and is crumbling before our eyes.
The next document of interest are notes taken from Austin Osborne regarding a conversation he had with Dave Smith. Dave was asking about corporate Housing and “jockeying paperwork” to allow for longer than 30 days stay. Nothing like being creative when it comes to paperwork and following the rules set by the rulers…#6 Austin Convo 10_4_2018
Title 17 And The Master Plan
The next document is an email from Austin Osborn to the Emerald City law firm and Randel Aleman ( Emerald City principal) copying Pat Whitten, Kathy Canfield (Planning) and Lance Gilman at his personal email address. The subject line reads Painted Rock -Emerald Business Center; PUD Documents; Pending Ordinance & Master Plan.Emerald City Xfer#6
In his email, Osborne summarizes items they will need to review and understand in order to proceed with the request to transfer Painted Rock density to TRIC. Notice that item #3 suggests that Title 17 of the county’s Zoning Ordinance is being reviewed in December 2018. This title has to do with PUDs, subdivisions, and other land use actions. I have to wonder given Pat Whitten’s request for O-Zone designation in April 2018 for a 10,000 home “smart town” if Title 17 is being reworked to allow for that residential development as a precursor to amending the entire Master Plan.
Yes, No, or Maybe
The last document in the public record request chain is an email chain started by Farr West Engineering asking for a meeting to discuss the transfer of residential housing from the Blockchains/Painted Rock area to the Emerald City Empire development.
What is interesting about this document is Pat Whitten’s (and the County’s) apparent change in stance. Curiously he asks that the email subject line change from “ Meeting to discuss Housing Units in Painted Rock and TRIC” to “Meeting to discuss Transfer of Painted Rock Units” Prior to this email the County appears to be anxious to move ahead with residential housing at TRIC. This email chain started before the Burns Keynote in Prague and Pat’s response is near the date of the keynote. Is Whitten’s posturing just that, or is there more here than meets the eye?
The Scale Wags The Dog.
When Emerald City Empire is allowed to transfer 1000 homes from Painted Rock to their development, the scale will start to lift the chumps (us) in favor of the burden of TRIC. When Elon Musk is allowed to build The Tesla Trailer Park, the scale will bottom out leaving us high and dry. When Jeffrey Burns builds his sprawling Innovation Center/Smart City the scale will crash to the floor and we will be sent flying. Storey County will go from being a set of distinct communities (Virginia City-Gold Hill, Mark Twain, The Highlands, and The River District) with an industrial park to being The Blockchain Innovation Center Smart City Utopia with a dusty tourist trap an hour away.
But it’s more than just sweeping Virginia City into the dustbin of irrelevance. This will mean the end of things as we know them. Mark Twain will flood every year because the money has to divert to TRIC. Traffic along 80 will become a Bay Area or Los Angeles Freeway where it takes an hour or more to go five miles. Our County services will octuple (or more) to cater to the needs of spoiled California hipsters.
And the horses? Let’s face it, folks, Bay Area pantywaists won’t stand for horses ruining their pipeline watered lawns and leaving road apples strewn about.
The lasting legacy of Lance Gilman, Marshall McBride, and Jack McGuffey.
Nice work, fellas.