Sierra Canyon, Somersett, Villages, The Vue – Your Community Forum

The Somersett Owners Association (SOA) Board of Directors (BOD) open meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28th at 5:30 PM at The Club at Town Center (TCTC) Sports Court. The Meeting Agenda may be accessed by clicking on the following link:

March 28th BOD Meeting Agenda

Note that the New Business Items deal with the SW Entrance Monument Repairs, Temporary Suspension of Poultry Wire Violations and AGC Fees. These are not really new items as the first two were discussed at the February 28th, 2018 BOD Meeting and the later at the October 25th 2017 BOD Meeting. Suspect these items deal with some required final approvals or proposed changes. The BOD Meeting Packet, not yet released, may provide some clarification here, if so, an update will be posted.  However, from past comments, it is clear that use of poultry wire for containment purposes and Monument signage has been an issue for many. This is your chance to make your voices heard.


For our readers who are concerned about Reno growth and its impact on the housing market, renters, traffic congestion, homeless, etc., you may find the following article from the New York Times interesting:

Submitted by Roger Rabbit – A SOA Common Area Resident

I object to those humans who wish to legalize the use of “chicken wire” on the split rail fences in Somersett. Even though it is inexpensive, easy to install, hard to see, and inoffensive to the vast majority of Somersett owners, it is discriminatory to all us desert cottontails (I despise the term “Pesky Rabbits”) by denying us access to nourishing food supplies (i.e., green grass, vegetables, abundant flowers and other lush plants) that were selfishly planted by humans for their enjoyment only. I do not see any provisions for denying such access to mice, birds, squirrels and all sort of insects, so why deny us cute little white tailed furry animals a similar courtesy?

Also, be advised that us desert cottontails are Nevada protected and designated as a small game animal. We can only be hunted during designated hunting seasons, which for this season was October 14, 2017 through February 28th, 2018, so don’t get any ideas about pellet guns or traps if forced to take down your chicken wire.

Any humans out there with me on this?


The following repairs and modifications have been proposed for Somerset’s West Entrance Monument (i.e., the one depicted in the above SU header banner).

  • Permanent removal of the two wing walls and relocation of the attached electrical services. These walls have been the subject of automobile accidents (one fatal) in the past and are considered a visibility safety hazard. The SOA is in receipt of an insurance settlement for the existing damaged wing wall which still needs repair.
  • Permanent removal of the existing column mounted light fixtures (eight total). Apparently these fixtures were improperly mounted and are the source of frequent maintenance.
  • Permanent removal of the existing “Del Webb” and “AT SOMERSETT” illuminated signage from both sides of the upper monument levels. These to be replaced with a new on-ground “Somersett” sign in front of the Monument. Sign to be similar to the one at Somersett’s East Entrance Island.
  • Removal of the existing in-ground landscape lighting and installation of new in-ground up-lighting to illuminate the four monument columns plus the proposed new Somersett sign.
  • Monument landscape/stucco repairs and repainting.

Bids were requested from three contractors, but only one, Avilla Construction, responded. The Avilla bid for $63K was opened at the February 28th BOD Meeting. After some discussion on costs and the basis for the proposed sign changes, the BOD voted to redefine the scope of work to just include demolition of the wing walls and their associated electrical and landscape repairs. Decisions on the proposed signage and lighting modifications were delayed to assess options and community input.

One proposed option (not quoted on) was to eliminate the “Del Webb” signage as well as the “AT” in the “AT SOMERSETT”, replacing the “AT” with the Somersett Leaf logo. In this event the proposed on-ground Somersett sign would not be included.

During the BOD discussion on the basis for the proposed sign changes, no reference was made to the amended Maintenance Easement Agreement (MEA) between the Somersett Owners Association (SOA) and Sierra Canyon (SC). Per the MEA: “SC understands SOA’s agreement to accept responsibility for maintenance of the SW Entrance feature is with the intent to change the signage thereon to reflect it as an entry to the entire Somersett development without mention of any neighborhoods, sub-associations or their developers”.

Chicken Wire

The “Chicken Wire” controversy raised its feathered head in a February 28th BOD Meeting discussion. Board Member Steve Guderian proposed a resolution for temporary suspension on the enforcement of poultry wire use violations, that is, except for egregious circumstances. Mr. Guderian opined that the SOA Aesthetic Guidelines Committee (AGC) has the power to make decisions regarding its use, and that we need to take a closer look at this situation. After much discussion, pro and con, the Board voted, although not unanimously, to approve the resolution.

This raises the question as to what constitutes an egregious violation (i.e., conspicuously bad, flagrant, gross, shocking, outrageous, or whatever)? Assume that it will be up to the SOA Compliance Director, Kenna Foote, and the AGC to decide while its use is adjudicated.

Following the controversy over the removal of bird nests from the golf course cart path tunnels last year, the Somersett Owners Association (SOA) commissioned Rubicon Environmental Consulting to conduct a biological recourses and habitat evaluation survey throughout Somersett. The purpose being “to identify sensitive biological resources that require protection measures during maintenance and disturbance activities to comply with local, state, and federal regulations”. At the February BOD Meeting, the Board accepted their report, which may be accessed via the following link:

Biological Resourses and Habitat Evaluation Report

Those interested in Somersett’s environmental setting (e.g., climate, hydrology, soils, vegetation, animal species, etc.) complete with maps and pictures, will find the report very interesting. The report further identifies sensitive plant and animal species found within the greater Reno area and whether the habitat for such is found within Somersett. These include:

Plants: 1) Webber’s Ivesia, 2) Steamboat Monkeyflower, and 3) Altered Andesite popcorn Flower

Animals: 1) North American Wolverine, 2) Cui ui – a large sucker fish, 3) Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, 4) Townsends Big-eared Bat, and 5) Osprey

So what does this mean for Somersett? Actually nothing, as field assessments (described within the report) did not identify any suitable habitats within Somersett for the above or any other sensitive species.

The report also contains a recommendation for conducting nesting bird surveys and to perform maintenance activities outside of the migratory bird nesting season (March through August), this to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Note: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. The migratory bird species protected by the Act are listed in 50 CFR 10.13.

How this Act applies to SOA maintenance activities is unclear. Perhaps the bird nests removed from the golf cart tunnels were listed in the 50 CFR 10.13 regulation. Any ornithologists out there care to comment?


Submitted by Geoffrey Brooks, Somersett Homeowner

Double Rockery Wall Failure at Trail Ridge Ct.

The SOA had a report prepared by CME (Construction Materials Engineers, Inc) of Reno to look into the reasons behind the failure of the rockery walls. This report may be accessed via the following link:

Trail Ridge Rockery Wall Failures Report

The report is thorough, makes interesting reading, has plenty of documentation concerning the building of the walls and whether they were built to normal standards.

CME dealt with how the wall was engineered – pretty standard. They also talk about the location of the walls, built in a part of the Peavine foothills that were terraformed to allow for the building of housing and Golf Course fairways and greens. These rockery walls were placed in areas where fill had been placed to enable pads and houses to be built. Analysis of the soils showed that a mixture of many different soil types, including clay soils, were used to backstop the walls.

Nothing unusual here, other than if one was to buy a building pad in Somersett – soil analysis would be required, and if clays were found (apparently quite prevalent in the foothills), they would have to be removed. Clay does not make a suitable foundation material in a building pad on which a house is to be built!

CME’s report indicates that we had unusually heavy rainfall a year ago, causing the soil behind and under the wall to become super-saturated. The lower wall (on the SGCC), was found to be built to 14’ high, outside the normal 10’ height. Those boulders are mighty heavy, and extra 30% in height adds immensely to the load on the wall.

So, the weight of the rocks caused the soil under the wall to move, and the wall came tumbling down. The slumping soil de-stabilized the upper wall which secured the building pads for the houses on the edge of the golf course – and that came down as well.

Why do soils flow when saturated? In the Santa Barbara hillsides, the sandy soils, with houses, gardens, rockery walls have been washed away by these “mud flows”. Once mud gets going it is difficult to stop! Clays form thixotropic systems – very thick when static – but under sheer they will flow very nicely.

Digressing slightly, In cosmetics they aid the even spreading of foundations on the skin… their ability to flow when rubbed in is responsible for the great soft feel of the product.

Trail Ridge (in Mountain Crest) has suffered from failing pads (prior to the 2017 rains) causing Toll Brothers to spend upwards of $500K on fixing up 5 houses, securing them on the pad. This was blamed on improper pad construction. Terra forming gone awry? I suspect that Toll Brothers in Village 6 – the layout so dramatically changed, requiring walls to be removed and new ones built – have made sure that all the 160 + pads are a great place for a house to be built.

Based on what has happened, it seems that the Trail Ridge area in Somersett is especially vulnerable. Other areas in Somersett where there are extensive rockery walls separating folks from golf, include Laurel Ridge… these walls did not fail. We have 71,000’ of rockery walls only 760’ have failed. We have an understanding of what went wrong. As sad and expensive as this event was, it can be fixed. Walls over 10’ high, built on, and backstopped by fill can be inspected… the chances of further failures are slim

Somersett is well, life goes on. By understanding the failures, we can manage the risk! Now, we have nothing to worry about.

Statute of Limitations

Considerable concern has been raised on whether it is too late for the SOA to seek redress for the rockery wall defects based on the statute of limitations under Nevada Law. For those interested, the Statute of Limitations for Chapter 40 Construction Defects is defined by NRS 11.202 as follows:

NRS 11.202  Actions for damages for injury or wrongful death caused by deficiency in construction of improvements to real property.
1.  No action may be commenced against the owner, occupier or any person performing or furnishing the design, planning, supervision or observation of construction, or the construction of an improvement to real property more than 6 years after the substantial completion of such an improvement, for the recovery of damages for:
(a) Any deficiency in the design, planning, supervision or observation of construction or the construction of such an improvement;
(b) Injury to real or personal property caused by any such deficiency; or
(c) Injury to or the wrongful death of a person caused by any such deficiency.

NRS 11.2055 further defines “substantial completion” as follows:

NRS 11.2055  Actions for damages for injury or wrongful death caused by deficiency in construction of improvements to real property: Determination of date of substantial completion of improvement to real property.
1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2, for the purposes of this section and NRS 11.202, the date of substantial completion of an improvement to real property shall be deemed to be the date on which:
(a) The final building inspection of the improvement is conducted;
(b) A notice of completion is issued for the improvement; or
(c) A certificate of occupancy is issued for the improvement,

The question here is what constitutes substantial completion for the Somersett rockery walls in question. Surely, construction of these walls was completed far earlier than six years prior to the litigation filing date of December 29, 2017. Additionally, Washoe County records indicate that ownership turnover of rockery wall parcels from Somersett Development Company to the Somersett Owners Association occurred in the 2004 to 2006 time frame, also well outside the six-year limit. Therefore, the SOA Attorneys would have to substantiate some other basis for start of the six-year period or otherwise argue it as being non-applicable. At the Litigation Information Meeting, the SOA Attorney implied that the date of SOA Board turnover from the Developer to the Homeowners could apply, although this apparently has no precedence in the Courts. The SOA Attorney referenced a December 2013 date in this regard. However, this was an erroneous reference, as Board Turnover occurred in November 2012. Regardless, both dates are within the six-year period.

Cost Estimates

In response to concerns/questions on legal fees, rockery wall repair costs, damage recovery limitations, effect on homeowner assessments etc., the SOA Attorney advised that it was too early in the discovery process to provide meaningful estimates. That more needs to be known not only about the existing defects (i.e., more concise inspections), but also defendant asset limitations (e.g., insurance) and the applicable design documents, inspection reports, code provisions, etc., under which the rockery walls were constructed. He implied that given the statute of limitations there was insufficient time to investigate all these issues prior to filing the lawsuit. However, this does not compute with the November 2012 date referenced above, which could support a filing date as late as November 2018 (assuming the BOD turnover date has some basis in the six-year limit). Therefore, there is a question as to whether the December 29th filing date was premature and should have been delayed permitting more time to provide meaningful estimates. However, this assumes that such information is publicly available and, therefore, the filing of civil procedures (Discovery process) would not have been required.


What effect should the preceding have on whether to RATIFY or NOT RATIFY the lawsuit? Sure, it would have been nice to have some more meaningful information and cost estimates, and there is a strong possibility that the lawsuit will be dismissed based on the six-year statute. However, now that “the cat has been let out of the bag” with the American Geotechnical Report, the cost of the current rockery wall failures, potential for future failures, SOA liability and Homeowner disclosure issues, it would appear that for homeowners to RATIFY the litigation is the logical choice. Hopefully the SOA BOD and their Attorneys will then act responsibly in assessing future discoveries and either move forward or terminate the lawsuit as appropriate.

Whatever your choice, all are encouraged to submit your ballot by the March 28th deadline. Abstentions just delay the inevitable.


Submitted by Joe Bower, Sierra Canyon Homeowner

The Sierra Canyon board has received a Report prepared by Wood Rogers on Sierra Canyon Walls, but has not yet released it to owners. Maybe after the board meeting on March 14, 2018.

Wood Rogers offers a full range of consulting services including civil engineering, land planning, surveying, landscape architecture, geotechnical, environmental, water resources, transportation and structural engineering.

So Wood Rogers was already involved with Somersett as per their website. Isn’t it a bit of a conflict of interest to use them for an assessment to determine if our walls are properly built and safe?

Somersett is a master-planned residential community located in northwest Reno that includes an 18-hole Tom Kite designed golf course with seven lakes, a 9-hole par three course, and a $9 million recreation center. Wood Rodgers staff provided detailed geotechnical engineering, value engineering during construction, slope stability studies, rockery wall survey and analysis, materials testing, special inspection services during building construction and City of Reno Engineer of Record services during the construction of various residential developments, several roadways, and a public park. Unique challenges included remediation of highly expansive soils and expansive altered bedrock beneath structural areas; slope stability issues including stabilization of a major slope failure and mitigation of rockery wall failures.

Submitted by Geoffrey Brooks  –  Association Member

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall

I woke up on Sunday to see the sun shining, a gorgeous spring day followed. I went for a walk and carried out my own cursory rockery wall inspection.

After a gloomy Saturday, a long well-attended presentation and QA session at the TCTC, one felt that Somersett’s world was coming to an end. All 13.5 miles of SOA walls are about to collapse. All privately owned rockery walls are doomed. What about the “not-surveyed” walls in The Village, The Vue, and Sierra Canyon? Litigation that will go on for 5 years (minimum) and cost, if it goes to trial (with expert witnesses) probably the best part of $5 million.

Basking in early Spring sunlight, I could see that most walls in my Somersett neighborhood and in the communities nearby in NW Reno seemed robust, solid, well built, surviving at least 15 years of rain and earthquakes.

Yes, after our do-it-yourself primer from American GeoTechnical and studying their report, I was alarmed. However, they simply have not accessed the relevant site records to see how each wall was built, and the quality of the soil at that specific wall site. The real question, is what caused our 360’ walls to fail? Maybe this is primarily due to the poor soil conditions, which when saturated with rain, oozed away. Soil liquefaction can cause buildings to topple, rock walls to crumble. Just google mudslides in Southern California! Well built walls and buildings were carried away, we all saw it on TV.

Somersett has been developed over the last 15 years. One can see from the current Toll Brother activities at Village 6, that significant terra-forming of the foothill soils of Mt Peavine are required to construct suitable building pads. There have already been failure of building pads, requiring extensive shoring up of the houses built on them. We do have bands of clay within Somersett, which need to be removed before building a house (or pad). Clay with water makes great ooze, which will flow! There was a successful Chapter 40 suit by Somersett Development against the designers and builders of the “cutting”, and extensive modifications had to be made for safety reasons.

Perhaps our legal efforts should be aimed at the “failures” – so far. It seems that the affected areas are on the golf course where extensive terra-forming has been performed. The 13.5 miles of walls surveyed (presumably on SOA land), were most likely built to the prevailing good building standards (for rockery and other walls) at the time. It seems highly unlikely that any of these were “improperly built”. Hence, unlikely to fail.

Walls do require maintenance. Our reserve studies calculate the life of a Rockery Wall at 30 years. Much of Hadrian’s Wall in Britain is still standing after 1800 years. At the turnover, all the construction records, permits, approvals, etc. should be on file with First Services and available for either expert or curious homeowner inspection.

Somersett as a whole, has little to worry about from collapsing walls, unless you have a home in an extensively terra-formed area … but then the unusual climatic events which caused the walls to collapse has happened already. So, I suspect that you have little to actually worry about now; if your rockery walls are still standing!

Remember, it was Humpty Dumpty who fell down and had to be rebuilt – NOT THE WALL!

Submitted by Joe Bower – Sierra Canyon Homeowner

This is a good time for the two boards to agree to cancel the MEA !

The original MEA states:

“In order to maintain a uniform landscaping scheme along the Main Thoroughfare, Somersett Owners Association desires an easement for the purpose of maintaining repairing and replacing the landscape, hardscape, softscape, and related irrigation systems, including controllers, within the Easement Area (“Somersett Obligations”).” (emphasis added)

The revised MEA states:

“for the purpose of maintaining a uniform scheme, including without limitation maintaining, repairing and replacing the landscape, hardscape, softscape, and related irrigation systems, including controllers, within the easement areas – along Somersett and Del Webb Parkways (the Main Thoroughfare.)” (emphasis added)

Anyone who is not blind can see that there is no such thing as a “uniform landscaping scheme aka uniform scheme” on the long with six roundabouts Somersett Parkway (a small portion of which lies within Sierra Canyon – between the NE Monument and the intersection of Del Webb Parkways East and West) and Del Webb Parkway East and Somersett Ridge Parkway – the three of which comprise the Main Thoroughfare.

The differences between Somersett Parkway and the two parkways in Sierra Canyon is like the difference between technicolor (Somersett Parkway) and black and white (the two parkways in Sierra Canyon). Another way of saying it, is the difference between day and night. Just drive or walk (with eyes open) from one end to the other. No need to demonstrate here by describing plant/tree species and rock/boulder sizes and their absence along the route.

The original document says “Somersett and Del Webb Parkways” There are two Del Webb Parkways (East and West).

Somersett has never performed maintenance on DWPWest. In addition, DWPWest does not have a landscaped center divider. DWPWest has houses on it with most of the curbside landscaping the responsibility of homeowners and not any association. DWPEast has no houses on it. Big differences between the two “Del Webbs.”

The Main Thoroughfare is Somersett-DWPEast-Somersett Ridge. It is not correctly/fully described in either document.

It should be noted that the revised document says: “There are presently two entrance features at SC. There is one that is at the north east entrance on Somersett-Ridge Parkway (“NE Entrance’”) and one that is at the south west entrance off of US 40 and US 80 on Somersett-Ridge Parkway (SW Entrance)”.

That sentence contains errors: (1) north east should be spelled northeast; (2) Somersett Ridge is spelled twice with a hyphen when there is no hyphen in its legal spelling; (3) the NE Entrance is not on Somersett Ridge Parkway. It is on Somersett Parkway; (4) the SW Entrance is not off of US 40 and US 80. There is a roundabout at that location. Rather the SW Entrance is a distance from the roundabout on Somersett Ridge Parkway at the geographical entrance/exit and the convergence of the opposing two lanes of traffic.

These basic errors call into the question the validity of the document itself.

All of the, attached to the revised document, “fancy-dancy” legal wording descriptions, maps, and aerial photographs (at what cost) depicting the Maintenance Easement Area to be maintained by Somersett mean nothing to the crew workers on the ground. There are no lines on the soil that tell a worker on which side he is to mow/rake/water/clear snow and the other side where he doesn’t.

In addition to all this confusion, there is a sentence in the PUD which says:

“ALL COMMON AREAS, including pedestrian easements, streetscapes, open space, parks, “commons,” and trails WILL BE MAINTAINED BY THE SOMERSETT OWNERS ASSOCIATION (when enabling legislations is passed by the City of Reno allowing such districts.)” – emphasis added – Pay no attention to “enabling legislation” as that has already happened when the City Council approved the PUD.

At its December 14, 2015 meeting the Somersett Board agreed the maintenance of the trails within Sierra Canyon is the responsibility of Somersett (asphalt repair and patching is right now being done under the auspices of Somersett).

Somersett has yet to admit it is also responsible for all the common areas in Sierra Canyon, not just the parkway ones. Up until recently maintenance of common areas meant landscaping. Rickety walls were not on anyone’s mind, but they are there along with some man-made structures that Somersett is to maintain per the PUD.

A financial analysis needs to be made, but it appears when Somersett assumes the landscaping of all common areas in Sierra Canyon our dues to Somersett would go up a little, but go down more to Sierra Canyon.

Since there would only be one Somersett contract for common area landscaping throughout Somersett, Sierra Canyon would require some level of authority (and a monthly spending limit) over the crew when it is in Sierra Canyon. No one knows what needs to be done better than the locals. A volunteer landscaping coordinator position for liaison with Somerset would need to be established.