President Johnson cites community input, postpones rezone of 104-acres at S. McCarran

University to focus on continued work on ag curriculum, research and industry collaborations

2/23/2012 - By: Mike Wolterbeek
MSFL hay barn Fall at the hay barn at the University's Main Station Field Laboratory. Photo by Mike Wolterbeek

University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson announced today he has postponed the rezoning project of a 104-acre parcel at the 1,049-acre Main Station Field Laboratory following extensive conversations with students, faculty, staff and constituents regarding the future of agriculture at the University.

These conversations have included stakeholder groups, community and public forums, and individual correspondence.

"The level of participation and conviction has been significant, but more impressive is the stated desire of so many to constructively contribute to the betterment of the University and, ultimately, our students and our community," Johnson said. "Several thoughtful ideas have come forward and we want to pursue them.

"With this initiative on hold, we will work with the community to review and reconfigure our programs to be more consistent with the emerging opportunities across the spectrum of agriculture trends and interests. The quality of the student experience will be at the core of this work, and research and outreach will remain priorities as well. We will also seek to build more industry collaboration that strengthens research and benefits our students, community and economy."

"To those who stepped forward to participate in the recent conversations, please know that your continued commitment and support will be critical to the future success of our reconfigured programs," Johnson said. "Inspiring, encouraging and recruiting prospective students to these programs will be paramount, and you can play a crucial role in this effort."

Information this week from the Truckee River Flood Management Authority was a contributing factor to the decision to postpone the rezoning request.  At the Flood Authority meeting Wednesday, the University learned that the timeframe for decision-making on the flood project at the local and federal levels will be extended, perhaps up to several years.

The University's motivation, from the outset, was to rezone the 104-acre parcel simply to protect the future value of the parcel from what appeared to be a near-term risk that it would be designated a floodway.

"The extended timeframe changes the scenario, and putting the rezoning proposal on hold allows more time as we determine the best use of the Main Station Field Laboratory and all of our agriculture research centers and field labs," Johnson said.

The South McCarran Parcel was annexed into the City of Reno in October 2011. The University sought to rezone the parcel from large lot residential to Planned Unit Development. The rezoning was approved by the Planning Commission in November and went before the Reno City Council in December. At the meeting, Johnson asked the City Council to delay the hearing so the University could gather additional input and provide additional information about the proposal before proceeding. With the support of those expressing concerns, the Reno City Council had rescheduled the item to March.

Citing a continued commitment to the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, last week the University announced the search process to fill the position of dean of the college will move forward.  Nearly two years ago Johnson announced the two-year appointment of Ron Pardini as interim dean. It's time now to initiate a national search for this position, he said.

The University is also moving forward with a debt buy-down plan for the now closed Fire Science Academy. If approved by the Board of Regents, the plan will free up $4.10 of the current $6.50 per-credit, capital-improvement fee paid by students. These funds will be redirected toward capital improvement funds and projects that directly benefit all students. Associated with the closure of the FSA in December are site restoration costs which must be paid by the University as part of the sale. The University is requesting an additional allocation of funds realized through the 2005 sale of their Mill and McCarran property to fund the restoration costs. Read more information on the Debt Reduction and Closure Cost Plan.

The University has also been examining the Wolf Pack Meats meat-processing facility following the significant funding reductions to public higher education in Nevada. Johnson convened a stakeholders group that includes representatives of current customers, local food producers as well as private meat processers who are concerned that Wolf Pack Meats currently presents unfair, stateā€subsidized competition. With stakeholders' input, the University is working toward a formal, open Request for Proposal process by which to determine whether there is interest on the part of someone or some group to maintain the operation of Wolf Pack Meats. The RFP is expected to be issued in the next few weeks.

Continued input on these matters is invited and can be sent to cabnrcomments@unr.edu.

For more information visit Rezone.


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