As many Winnemucca residents know, the housing market within the community makes it difficult for renters and homeowners to find affordable housing. This issue was made apparent at the Winnemucca City Council meeting on April 5 where the Nevada Rural Housing Authority (NRHA) asked for approval to proceed with its latest plan to develop townhomes in the 5.75-acre lot next to the Humboldt Museum.
Present at the meeting were Mayor Richard Stone, City Manager Alicia Heiser, Council Member Pam Coats, Council Member Jim Billingsley, and City Attorney Kent Maher. Council Members Vince Mendiola and Michael Owens were present via web-call. Council Member Teresa Mavity was absent from the meeting. The City Hall meeting room was also jammed-packed with concerned residents and the Humboldt Museum Board Members. There were no representatives from the NRHA present.
The NRHA provides affordable housing opportunities to rural Nevadans. Usually, affordable housing rates are only attainable if the NRHA can purchase property from the city at a more affordable rate than that of privately owned land. The NRHA submitted its plan to the city council that would create 48-unit townhomes —2 pods per townhome— in the empty lot kitty-corner from Pioneer Park.
Museum Executive Director of 11 years, Dana Toth, passionately addressed the council, conveying that “the museum still has plans to develop the land.”
The purchase and furtherance of the NRHA plan would mean the museum would not be able to expand its grounds as planned. In previous years, the museum imagined using the parcel for a warehouse of artifacts, according to Toth. She said that many of their artifacts currently outside should be moved indoors but will not fit because of how much they have grown. Toth reported that the land has yet to be developed by the museum because of a lack of funding and the recent raise in material prices.
“A couple folks that I have talked to had said it is going to be really hard to even come up with a budget for us right now because materials are just wild,” she said.
Despite a lack of total funds, the museum still has many donors presently contributing funds to its growth, said Toth, having just received a sizable donation of Native American artifacts and funds dedicated to its curation.
Billingsley asked about the NRHA’s projected timeline, and Heiser said the group is prepared to begin work at the council’s approval.
“The Housing Authority is all set to go,” she said.
Toth said that it would be at least a few years before the museum could proceed with its own development. Toth asked for more time to prepare plans to present to the city council.
“I didn’t know a thing about it until the agenda came out the Friday before the meeting,” she told councilmen.
It was brought to the attention of the council that members of the museum board and residents of the area do not feel that a townhome development will be an appropriate fit for the location. Wayne Smith, a homeowner near the property, dubbed the intersection between Jungo Road and Museum Lane “Malfunction Junction” and explained that there are many “close calls” between mining buses and vehicles, as well as between many other drivers there every day. The added traffic from a housing development, he said, would be even more dangerous.
Local historical restaurant owner and Museum Board Treasurer John Arant spoke of the rich past of the city and how important it is to foster and document its growth through the museum. He pointed out that the museum often draws people from surrounding cities and is a real attraction for the travelers coming through.
“The museum is the hub of history in Winnemucca and history sells,” said Arant.
Another Museum Board Member, Skip Hammargren, added, “as our county grows, so should our museum.”
Museum Board Member and Humboldt County Commissioner Tom Hoss spoke up as well and said “the museum brings a lot of value to the community.”
Lastly, Mayor Stone said, “Personally, I feel it is natural that the museum uses the lot to expand.”
The action was ultimately tabled until the next meeting in order to give museum officials time to organize a plan to present to the city council at a future meeting.