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Sparks mayor shares pros and cons of Northern Nevada city's astounding growth

AP Photo/Scott Sonner

Traffic passes Sunday evening, Aug. 6, 2017 on U.S. Interstate 80 in Sparks, Nevada.

Whenever we talk about the explosion in growth and the sky high housing costs in Northern Nevada, we usually say it’s the “Reno-Sparks” area.

The mayor of Sparks is Ed Lawson, who has had the job since 2020 after Mayor Ron Smith died of cancer.

Before that, Lawson had served on the city council for a decade.

For nearly two years, he’s been the point person for Sparks' astounding growth, and all the issues and problems that can come with it.

"We do things a little differently in Sparks," he said, noting their community is more family-focused than most in Nevada. "What's good for Sparks is good for Reno and Washoe County."

On the topic of surging housing prices, he said, "we've become a victim of our own success ... it's a vicious circle for us. [Kids] can't afford to stay here." The growth was spurred by the large amount of technology companies that moved operations to Northern Nevada, but those workers need a place to live. 

He said considering water availability, the city of Sparks has the capacity to expand by 50,000 homes, but they're limited by land nearby owned by the Bureau of Land Management. The solution, he said, is to build up.

"Our land is already purchased here, so when it's developed in 2027, we're done growing in the traditional sense of growth in Nevada," he said.

Lawson also spoke on the topic of police transparency in the city, following a lawsuit against them by a former police officer. Then, he shared details of the program's HOPE program to help those who are mentally ill and homeless. 

On State of Nevada at 9 a.m., we continue our series on talks with the mayors of Nevada. Listen to past interviews with Ely Mayor Nathan Robertson here and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve here

Ed Lawson, mayor of Sparks

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Dave Berns, now a producer for State of Nevada, recently returned to KNPR after having previously worked for the station from 2005 to 2009.