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Storey County passes resolution against Innovation Zones

March 3, 2021 GMT
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This undated illustration provided by Blockchains LLC shows a proposed "smart city" in rural northern Nevada. A cryptocurrency company that owns 67,000 acres in rural northern Nevada wants state government to grant technology companies power to form local governments on land they own. Jeffrey Berns, CEO of Nevada-based Blockchains, LLC, wants to build a "smart city" run on blockchain technology on the land his company purchased in 2018. (EYRC Architects/Blockchains LLC via AP)
1 of 2
This undated illustration provided by Blockchains LLC shows a proposed "smart city" in rural northern Nevada. A cryptocurrency company that owns 67,000 acres in rural northern Nevada wants state government to grant technology companies power to form local governments on land they own. Jeffrey Berns, CEO of Nevada-based Blockchains, LLC, wants to build a "smart city" run on blockchain technology on the land his company purchased in 2018. (EYRC Architects/Blockchains LLC via AP)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The rural Nevada county where a blockchain technology firm wants to form a jurisdiction with governmental powers passed a resolution against ceding control over local decision-making but left the door open to working with the company on its bid to build a futuristic smart city in the desert.

Storey County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to “oppose separatist governing control” and the carving up of the county — in what is the first official statement the commission has made since Gov. Steve Sisolak proposed creating Innovation Zones.

Blockchains LLC is lobbying Sisolak and the Legislature to let tech companies that promise $1.25 billion in investment to create so-called Innovation Zones on the land they own. These zones would have power over law enforcement, taxation and land management decisions and initially be governed by a board with two members from the company itself.

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The company argues its plans to build a blockchain-centric city 12 miles (19 kilometers) east of Reno where inventors are empowered to design new applications using blockchain would be unduly constrained by traditional local government mechanisms.

Blockchain is a digital ledger known primarily for recording cryptocurrency transactions. But it is also used to securely log other records and contracts by companies and governments.

The company plans to build up to 15,000 units in a region called Painted Rock. The county’s 2016 master plan references prior approval for 3,500 homes and outlines guiding principles including historical preservation and natural resource management. The county informally told Blockchains two years ago that it wasn’t interested in zoning the 3,230-acre (13 sq. kilometer) region for the thousands of additional units that the company wants.

In light of the resolution, Blockchains lobbyist Pete Ernaut acknowledged Storey County’s development-friendly posture toward commercial projects. But he said the company disagreed with the commission’s perceived stance regarding residential and mixed-use development.

“A smart city with 35,000 residents is essential to the vision of this Innovation Zone, which makes permitting a city of this size key to this discussion. We understand their initial reaction to such a unique idea, and look forward to finding a path forward that works for everyone,” Ernaut said.

Sisolak convened a roundtable to discuss Innovation Zones and how a potential cryptocurrency transaction tax could benefit Nevada on Friday, where he described the purpose of the proposal as making Nevada an epicenter for emerging technology companies. No Innovation Zones bill has been formally introduced in the Legislature.

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Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.