Nevada Land Use Planning (1-NV-a)
In some cases, depending on population size, the county must establish a regional planning coalition that then develops and administers a comprehensive regional land use policy plan. If the applicable land use plan does not allow for or contemplate the desired type of renewable energy project, the developer may take steps outlined in this flowchart to amend the land use plan.
For projects that qualify as a “project of regional significance,” the master plan amendment must be consistent with the regional plan and is subject to review by the regional planning commission/coalition.
Nevada is unique among states because approximately 86% of its land area is managed by the federal government. The Nevada Division of State Lands has a State Land Use Planning Agency that acts to assist local government planning agencies, especially in scenarios that involve federal public land. For projects in Nevada on federal (BLM managed) land, see BLM Land Use Planning Process:
Regardless, the legislature declared it to be in the public interest for local governments to be the primary authority for the land use planning process. NRS 321.640(1). State participation in land use planning is limited to:
- The coordination of information and data;
- The acquisition and use of federal lands within the state;
- Providing land use planning assistance in areas of critical environmental concern when directed by the Governor or requested by local governments; and
- Providing assistance in resolving inconsistencies between the land use plans of local governmental entities when requested to do so by one of the entities.
Generally, local government planning agencies include:
- The planning commission for the city in which the land is entirely located;
- A county or regional planning commission; or
- The Nevada Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
Land Use Planning Process
1-NV-a.1 to 1-NV-a.2 – Does the Applicable Land Use Plan Allow for the Desired Development?
Depending on the project location, land use plans in Nevada are administered by a city/county planning commission, regional planning commission, or regional planning coalition. Regardless of the administering entity, the applicable land use plan may already contemplate and allow for the desired type of development. In such cases, the land use plan does not need to be amended and the developer may continue with the project. Where the land use plan does not contemplate and/or allow for the desired type of project, the developer must continue with the process outlined in this flowchart in order to amend the land use plan.
1-NV-a.3 to 1-NV-a.4 – Request Amendment to Master Plan at Planning Commission Meeting
County planning commissions are required to meet once a month. NRS 278.050. Developers may request an amendment to the land use plan at the monthly meeting. The planning commission will determine whether or not to consider the amendment at a subsequent meeting. The land use plan cannot be amended unless the planning commission agrees to consider the amendment.
1-NV-a.5 to 1-NV-a.6 – Appeal Decision to City Council / County Commission (If Allowed by Ordinance)
NRS 278.3195(1) allows for planning commissions to establish, by ordinance, rules and procedures for developers to appeal a decision of the planning commission. The applicable ordinance will set forth a time period within which the developer is able to appeal, and a time period within which the governing body (city council / county commission) will render a final decision on the appeal. NRS 278.3195(2). If there is no applicable ordinance or the governing body denies the appeal, the process ends. If there is an applicable ordinance and the governing body reverses the planning commission’s decision, the planning commission must subsequently consider the proposed amendment.
1-NV-a.7 to 1-NV-a.8 – Post Notice of Public Hearing
If the planning commission decides to consider an amendment to the land use plan, the planning commission will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed amendment. NRS 278.210(1). At least 10 days prior to the date of the hearing, the planning commission is required to post public notice of the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in the city/county. NRS 278.210(1)
1-NV-a.9 to 1-NV-a.10 – Does the Planning Commission Adopt the Amendment?
Either at the conclusion of the public hearing or during a subsequent monthly planning commission meeting, the planning commission will decide whether to adopt the proposed amendment to the land use plan. Land use plans may only be adopted by resolution of the planning commission carried by the affirmative votes of two-thirds (or more) of sitting members of the planning commission. NRS 278.210(3). If adopted, the amended land use plan will allow for the type of desired project and the developer may continue with the process.
1-NV-a.11 to 1-NV-a.12 – Does the Project Qualify as a “Project of Regional Significance”
If a land use plan amendment approved by a city/county planning commission allows for a “project of regional significance,” the planning commission must forward the land use plan amendment to the regional planning coalition/commission (whichever is applicable) for review. 278.0277. Regional Planning Coalitions are directed by statute to establish a definition for the term “project of regional significance.” NRS 278.02542(2).
For regional planning commissions, the definition depends on whether the project is being proposed by a public utility, as opposed to a project proposed by any person other than a public utility. If proposed by a public utility, “projects of regional significance” include:
- An electric substation;
- A transmission line that carries 60 kilovolts or more; and
- A facility that generates electricity greater than 5 megawatts.
If proposed by a person other than a public utility, “projects of regional significance” include projects that will:
- Result in the loss or significant degradation of a designated historic, archeological, paleontological, cultural or scenic resource;
- Result in the creation of significant new geothermal or mining operations;
- Will have a significant effect on the natural resources, public services, public facilities, including, without limitation, schools, or the adopted regional form of the region; or
- Will require a change in zoning, a special use permit, an amendment to a master plan, a tentative map or other approval for the use of land which, if approved, will have an effect on the region of increasing:
- Employment by not less than 938 employees;
- Housing by not less than 625 units;
- Hotel accommodations by not less than 625 rooms;
- Sewage by not less than 187,500 gallons per day;
- Water usage by not less than 625 acre feet per year; or
- Traffic by not less than an average of 6,250 trips daily.
1-NV-a.13 to 1-NV-a.14 – Is the Project within a County with a Population Greater than 700,000?
Pursuant to NRS 278.02514 counties in Nevada with a population greater than 700,000 are required to establish a regional planning coalition. If the project qualifies as a “project of regional significance,” developers may request to amend the comprehensive regional policy plan in order to include the type of desired development. The regional policy plan balances the economic, social, physical, environmental and fiscal development for growth in the region over a twenty year period. NRS 278.02528.
1-NV-a.15 to 1-NV-a.16 – Does the regional Planning Coalition Adopt the Amendment?
A regional planning coalition can only adopt a proposed amendment to the comprehensive regional policy plan by resolution supported by the affirmative votes of two-thirds (or more) of its total membership and ratification by the board of county commissioners of the county and city council of each city that jointly established the regional planning coalition. NRS 278.02528(3). Given the additional requirement for ratification, there may be additional processes (public notices, hearing, etc) carried out at the county level prior to ratification. Currently, there is only one county (Clark) in Nevada that has an established regional planning coalition, the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition (SNRPC).
1-NV-a.17 – Request Amendment to Regional Plan
Nevada counties with a population between 100,000 and 700,000 are required to establish a regional planning commission. NRS 278.0261. Additionally, qualifying counties must establish a governing board for regional planning. NRS 278.0264. Regional planning commissions meet once annually, at which time they must consider any proposed amendments to the 20 year regional plan that may either be necessary for the health and welfare of the community or otherwise substantially benefits the community in general. NRS 278.0272(8). Regional planning commissions will consider amending the regional plan when triggered by master plan amendments that allow for “projects of regional significance.”
1-NV-a.18 to 1-NV-a.19 – Post Notice of Public Hearing
If, at the annual meeting, the regional planning commission decides to consider a proposed amendment to the regional plan, they will hold a subsequent hearing on the amendment and post public notice of the hearing at least 30 days in advance. NRS 278.0272(9).
1-NV-a.20 to 1-NV-a.22 – Does the Regional Planning Commission Adopt the Amendment?
The regional planning commission may only adopt a proposed amendment to a regional plan by resolution of the commission carried by the affirmative votes of two-thirds (or more) of its total membership. NRS 278.0272(6). If adopted, the regional planning commission forwards the amendment recommendation to the governing board for official adoption. NRS 278.0272(7). If the regional planning commission denies the amendment, the developer has the opportunity to appeal the decision to the governing board. NRS 278.0272(7)
1-NV-a.23 to 1-NV-a.24 – Post Notice of Public Hearing
After receiving an amendment recommendation from the regional commission or the appeal of an amendment denial from the developer, the governing board will hold a public hearing on the recommendation or appeal and post public notice of the hearing at least 10 days in advance. NRS 278.0276.
1-NV-a.25 to 1-NV-a.26 – Does the Governing Board Adopt the Amendment?
A decision by the governing board to adopt the amendment must be by resolution, supported by the affirmative votes of a simple majority of the board. NRS 278.0276. If the amendment is adopted, the land use plan will be changed accordingly by the governing board.
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