UNR delays farm rezoning plan

Two days after meeting with students and community members regarding the potential rezoning of a 104-acre parcel of the University of Nevada, Reno’s main station farm, interim president Marc Johnson announced today that the initiative will be placed on hold for the immediate future.

In a letter sent out to undergraduates, Johnson cited a need to reaffirm agricultural options at the university, as well as news that a plan to turn land near the parcel into a floodway had been postponed for up to several years. Johnson said the initial plan to rezone the property was to protect it’s value from the flood zone.

“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 lab,” he said.

Below is the full text of the letter:

Dear Student,

Over the past several weeks, I have participated in a series of conversations that has involved students, faculty, staff and constituents regarding the future of agriculture here at the University. These conversations have taken the form of 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. Several thoughtful ideas have come forward and we want to pursue them.

I have arrived at the decision to move forward with postponement of the University’s request to rezone a 104‐acre parcel which borders South McCarran Boulevard and is part of the University’s 1,049‐acre Main Station Field Laboratory. 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.

Another contributing factor that guides the decision to postpone the rezoning request relates to regional flood management planning. At a special meeting of the Truckee River Flood Management Authority on Wednesday, we learned that the timeframe for decision-making at the local and federal levels will be extended, perhaps up to several years.  From the outset, our motivation to rezone the 104-acre parcel at this time was 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.

As announced last week, we are moving forward with the search process to fill the position of dean of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR). It was nearly two years ago that we announced the two-year appointment of Dr. Ron Pardini as interim dean, and the time has come to initiate a national search for this position. With the best interests of the University and all of our students in mind, the University will also move forward with our debt buy-down plan for the 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. More on this matter is available here.

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. Inspiring, encouraging and recruiting prospective students to these programs will be paramount, and you can play a crucial role in this effort.

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

Marc

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