Storey County Commission seeks meeting with governor over “innovation zones”

Storey County Commission seeks meeting with governor over “innovation zones”
A rendering of Blockchains LLC's proposed Painted Rock Smart City concept. (Credit: EYRC Architects + Tom Wiscombe Architecture)

By Jeri Davis / This Is Reno

Storey County Commissioners have sent a letter to Gov. Steve Sisolak again expressing their opposition to proposed legislation that would carve out some 67,000 acres of land in the county to become an independently governed, blockchain technology fueled “innovation zone.”

The company Blockchains LLC has been lobbying Sisolak and the Nevada Legislature to approve a plan for it to invest $1.25 billion into the creation of a “smart city” and designate the 67,000 acres it already owns as an “innovation zone” that would initially be governed by a board with two members from the company itself that would have control over law enforcement, education, taxation and a land management decisions.

The Story County Commission has repeatedly referred to the proposal as the creation of “separatist governing control” and says it’s unnecessary for the “advancement of technology, innovative industries, or residential ‘smart city’ development.”

In its April 6 letter to Sisolak, the commission wrote, “Storey County has for 20 years been Nevada’s leader in attracting, permitting, and supporting technology, manufacturing, and energy sectors, and transforming northern Nevada from dependence on gaming to the diversified economic powerhouse it is today.”

The Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center within the county is home to companies like Tesla, Switch, Google, Panasonic, Fulcrum Bioenergy and another nearly 20 million square-feet of industrial space housing other companies.

The letter to Sisolak includes a request for a meeting with the governor and representatives from his Office of Economic Development to discuss how the goals of the proposed innovation zone bill could be achieved without “stripping” the county of roughly one-third of its land.

“The proponents of the Innovation Zone envision a ‘sandbox’ in which inventive minds are free to develop advanced technologies through expression and experimentation. We respond that this vision dovetails seamlessly into our current master plan, zoning allowances, development agreements, and proven business-friendly culture,” the letter states.

On three separate occasions—March 2, March 16 and April 6—the Storey County Commission has directed county staff and lobbyists to oppose the proposed legislation. The letter to Sisolak states that the county will continue to hold this stance so long as the legislation remains in its current form.