High court sends Douglas growth initiative back to district

An appeal of a Douglas District Court decision throwing out the sustainable growth initiative has been sent back by the Nevada Supreme Court for clarification.

The initiative, which limits the number of homes built in Douglas County to 280 a year, was approved by voters in November 2002.

Following the approval, the initiative was appealed in district court, where Judge Michael Gibbons ruled against it. Gibbons' decision was appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Justice Nancy Becker, writing for the high court, ordered the case back to lower court, saying she wants clarification as to what was decided by district court, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Chally.

"She said it's not ripe for Supreme Court review," Chally said.

According to the Supreme Court's show-cause order issued earlier this month, only one of three claims addressed in the order prepared by Gibbons is up for review by the court, whether the initiative conflicts with the master plan.

Gibbons' 2003 decision appears to deny both sides' motions for summary judgment, according to the Supreme Court order.

His final ruling concluded the controversial sustainable growth initiative was a legitimate governmental purpose by affecting the "public health, morals, safety and welfare of its citizens."

Gibbons also ruled that the initiative is inconsistent with Douglas County's master plan and cannot be the subject of a county ordinance for implementation as an amendment to the master plan.

"Although the court's order sets forth its views on this issue, it does not indicate whether that summary judgment is to be granted or denied," Becker said. "It therefore appears that the unconstitutionality claim has not been resolved by the district court and remains pending in the underlying case."

"The bottom line is, the involved parties are being told to get a clarifying order from District Court," Chally said.

Jumpers LLC, Century 21 Clark Properties, Jay D. Marriage and Nevada Northwest LLC have 30 days to show why the appeal and cross-appeals should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction based on an improper certification, Becker said.

"Our review of this court's jurisdiction has been hampered because certain documents were not transmitted to this court," Becker said. "We direct the appellant and cross-appellants to provide this court with copies."

Additionally, the court has not received a copy of the complaint, or motion to intervene, filed by supporters of the Sustainable Growth Initiative.

"Failure to demonstrate this court's jurisdiction over the claims presented on appeal could result in the partial or complete dismissal of this appeal and cross-appeals," Becker said.

In light of all the confusion, John Garvin, spokesman for the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee, said perhaps the present board of county commissioners should choose to recognize the will of the people by introducing a slow-growth measure as a new ordinance, before residential build-out becomes a fact of life."

"The SGI Committee's position has been and continues to be that the district court, in substance, declared that the initiative was constitutional," he said. "Now, in the almost 21Ú2 years since the District Court's order, the Supreme Court has decided the District Court should respond further.

"In the meantime, the SGI Committee will continue its efforts," he said.

n Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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