City Council to decide whether or not to appeal Scenic Nevada case regarding Reno Neon Line

by Mike Van Houten / Oct 21, 2023

On Wednesday October 25, The Reno City Council will decide whether or not to appeal the Second Judicial Court decision regarding designation signs for the Reno Neon Line. 

To back up a bit, the developer agreement between the City of Reno and Jacob Entertainment's Reno Neon Line allows for Jacobs Entertainment to display an archway sign, I believe over 4th Street, along with two billboard signs advertising the district along the freeway.

Scenic Nevada is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, non-partisan conservation organization that works to preserve, protect, and enhance the scenic character of Nevada. They filed a lawsuit regarding the signs and the development agreement. 

Scenic Nevada argued that the signs do not comply with city code and putting them in the DA to circumvent the city’s sign code actually runs counter to state law which says that a development agreement can only govern land in which the developer has a real property interest:

“In the manner prescribed by ordinance, a governing body may, upon application of any person having a legal or equitable interest in land, enter into an agreement with that person concerning the development of that land.”   NRS 278.0201 

Scenic Nevada contends that the area covered by the DA contains many parcels in which the developers who signed the DA have no legal or equitable interest, and thus, the DA is contrary to NRS 278.0201.  

The court ruled that one of the signs, the archway, does not violate NRS statute, while the other two signs, the billboards, do. In reaching its conclusion, the Court determined that 1) Scenic Nevada, Inc. had standing to contest the Development Agreement; 2) two of the signs are billboards, not area identification signs; and 3) that NRS 278.0201 does not give the City the authority to deviate from existing code when entering into a development agreement under that statute.

Therefore, unless appealed, the City of Reno cannot issue building codes for the freeway signs. 

I'm not sure I get the logic of appealing this decision, as Jacobs DOES get what is probably the most important sign, the one that would actually reside within his Reno Neon Line District, the archway over 4th Street. 

Jacobs Entertainment does not actually own all the land/property within the development agreement area, although the development agreement supposedly only applies to the parcels he owns. But since the development agreement also allows for aestheic standards to apply across the entire district, such as street lighting design, trash bin design etc, it could be argued that the Reno Neon Line District's development agreement with the City does indeed include areas of parcels that Jacobs does not own. But it doesn't appear that's is what is up for debate in this case, rather do the signs along the freeway count as billboards or designations signs and do they bypass city code. 

The judge did not nullify or disqualify the development agreement as part of their decision to allow the archway sign but not the freeway signs, and the development agreement was finalized and put into place already despite the pending lawsuit. So it's not like the Second Judicial Court's decision erases the development agreement, it simply states that two of the signs do violate NRS statute. 

It will be interesting to watch the logic of this play out on Wednesday, along with the City Council's decision whether or not to appeal. 

You can find the staff report for this here:

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