SOUTH VALLEYS – CHARACTER STATEMENT
The South Valleys Area Plan includes Steamboat Valley, Pleasant Valley, and Washoe Valley, and includes the southern border of Washoe County. This area is a scenic greenbelt between the urban areas of Reno/Sparks and Carson City. Together, these valleys comprise a valuable resource of open space, water resources, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, peaceful valleys and magnificent views of the Sierra Nevada, Carson, and Virginia mountain ranges. The following attributes contribute to the character of the South Valleys:
This area is proud of its rich history of Native American use and habitation, going back thousands of years. The area’s geology, botany, and wildlife reflect the evidence of this history, which must be protected. Starting in the 1850’s, this area was key in the development of early settlement, including mining, transportation, logging, ranching, agriculture including orchards, and the location of the first county seat, Washoe City. There is still significant evidence of the Comstock Lode and the V&T Railroad.
The area’s water resources are carefully managed to ensure sustainability which contributes to the area’s character and quality of life. The lakes, wetlands, and various creeks such as Davis, Ophir, Galena, and Steamboat Creeks contribute to the beauty of the area and its vegetation and wildlife. Protection of watersheds and ground water recharge areas maintain this sensitive balance.
OPEN SPACE/PUBLIC LANDS
One of the area’s most cherished resources is its open space. At the present time, more than half of the Washoe Valley floor and surrounding areas is protected and maintained by these public agencies: U.S. Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management; Nevada Division of Wildlife; Nevada State Parks, and Washoe County. Over the past several decades these agencies have cooperated with conservation groups and landowners to protect and increase open space. There are continuing coordinated efforts to protect additional sensitive lands.
This area contains some of the most diverse and dramatic scenery in the county. Mountain views, forests, meadows, wetlands, and lakes dominate the viewshed and combine to form the area’s visual character. A designated Nevada State Scenic Byway allows residents and visitors to enjoy the beauty of the area.
A diversity of wildlife habitat supports a variety of species of mammals, fish, and birds. The South Valleys are home to a designated Important Bird Area that provides essential breeding and migration habitat for one or more species of birds. It is a valuable part of the Pacific Flyway which includes Scripps Wildlife Management Area, the wildlife mitigation area of Washoe Lake State Park, and other protected areas.
The South Valleys are a popular recreational destination for hiking, camping, picnicking, water sports, horseback riding, bicycling, hunting, fishing, and bird watching. There are a number of parks, including Washoe Lake State Park, Davis Creek Regional Park, Bowers Mansion Regional Park, and other small neighborhood parks. Trail access is also available to Virginia City via Jumbo Grade, Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Rim Trail, Hobart Reservoir, and Galena Creek.
Dwellings are generally secondary focal points with a variety of structures and uses throughout the South Valleys planning area. In fact, large, contiguous state and federal land holdings dominate the landscape, often blending with sizable agricultural and even residential parcels. The key cultural, archaeological, natural, wildlife and wildlife habitat, recreational and other special resources on these public lands – and on private lands – are basic elements of the area character. Throughout the area the lack of air, water, noise, and light pollution, as well as low traffic congestion, are key components.
Limited, small areas of commercial development exist in the South Valleys planning area. The first is located along Highway 395 corridor in Steamboat Valley. The second is located along Highway 395 in Old Washoe City. The third is located in New Washoe City near the intersection of Eastlake Blvd. and Esmeralda Dr. Confinement of businesses to these three existing areas is essential to the overall character of the South Valleys. To protect the rural, agricultural, historic character, and visual quality of the area, allowable uses in these commercial areas differ from those in the same regulatory zones in the Development Code.
Because these commercial areas co-exist with residential communities, businesses in these areas were uniformly sensitive to the safety and welfare of their residential neighbors by providing goods and services to local residents and visitors that are family friendly, promote healthy lifestyles and contribute to the rural character and outdoor recreation aspects of the South Valleys. However, businesses that are inconsistent with these qualities have more recently been allowed into these commercial areas.
Livestock and Agriculture in the South Valleys is a significant contribution to the rural character of the area. The numerous Equestrian Centers are a key component. South Valley residents value their right to own livestock and the ownership of “ farm animals” for recreational, economic, and educational purposes is a valuable characteristic of the area.
Historic Hwy 395 and the I-580 freeway extend through the South Valleys from Reno to Carson City, providing a valuable transportation link that helps to integrate the broader region. Design characteristics of secondary roads contribute to lower traffic volume and the rural character of the area.
The essential character of the South Valleys lies in its value as a wildlife habitat and recreational area with great historical and cultural value. Residential and non-residential development patterns express a rural heritage of integration with the area’s natural resources while maintaining the Valleys as unincorporated communities with development consistent with the general rural designation and limiting commercial to existing commercial areas.
The Charater Statement was completed, at the request of Washoe County Planning, by a committee comprised of representatives from Washoe Valley Alliance,West Washoe Associaton, Pleasant Valley/Steamboat Landowners Association, and community organizations.