Douglas growth initiative gets day in court

Arguments over the voter-approved Sustainable Growth Initiative, a measure designed to limit residential growth in Douglas County to 280 homes a year, will be heard in the Nevada Supreme Court today.

Proponents say the measure is designed to preserve Douglas County's quality of life, water resources and rural character. It was approved by 53 percent of the vote in the November 2002 election.

Following that approval, Douglas County joined a number of local entities, including Jumpers LLC, Century 21 Clark Properties Inc., and the Douglas County Building Industry Association, charging the initiative should be invalidated because it is inconsistent with the county's master plan.

In February 2003, District Judge Michael Gibbons agreed.

"This court agrees with the plaintiffs and the county and deems the building-permit cap in question contrary to the master plan's clearly stated and sound policy for future development, which calls upon the county to take into account national and local trends in population growth, to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing, to implement a transfer of development rights program, to recognize and respect the importance of development agreements, and to coordinate with governmental entities for land-use planning in adjoining areas," Gibbons said in his decision.

Today's session will likely be dedicated to oral arguments and no decision is expected. John Garvin, spokesman for the Sustainable Growth Committee, said he expects a decision before the end of the year.

At last week's meeting of the Douglas County commissioners, Garvin asked if the county was prepared for the potential onslaught of building permits if the Supreme Court rules in support of the Initiative.

County Manager Dan Holler said a court injunction limits their planning ability, should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the Sustainable Growth Initiative.

"We can't plan for that without violating the court order. We have to be very careful about how we walk that line," Holler said.

"I'd hate to see this county unprepared," Garvin said.

"That will be up to the builders. We anticipate some increase in permits, but we don't know," Holler said.

Douglas County averaged 445 single-family building permits per year from 1995 through 1999. The annual average rose to 559 from 2000 to 2004. For the first 10 months of this year, 475 single-family permits were issued.

n Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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