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Change proposed in Genoa code

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

Douglas County leaders want to close a loophole that could let an appointed advisory board override the zoning and master plan policies the rest of the county lives by.

The county commission took the first step Thursday by introducing a change to the codes that govern the Genoa Historic District Commission.

“This wasn’t intended to be a wholesale rewrite of this ordinance,” said County Manager Dan Holler.

Instead, he said the county will tackle the conflict one issue at a time.

The conflict started earlier in the year when Bettie Kanelos sought approval for a 12,280-square-foot motel and retail building at the northwest corner of Nixon and Main streets.

Genoa is one of Nevada’s oldest settlements, and the historic commission reviews new projects to make sure they match the town’s historic character. The board balked at the size of the building, among other things.

Kanelos appealed to the county commission, which granted approval after being told size couldn’t be considered. A group of Genoa residents then formed a non-profit group and filed suit in Douglas District Court.

District Judge Dave Gamble overturned the county’s approval, saying the historic board could consider building sizes. County attorneys say the ruling could undermine the county’s master plan because it asserts the county commission delegated zoning authority to the historic board.

If so, the historic board’s tastes could supersede standards the county set, which the commissioners say was never their plan.

“I don’t think it was ever the intention of this board to have an appointed board dictate property rights and zoning,” said Commissioner Steve Weissinger.

The commission is appealing the district court ruling. Meanwhile, the proposed language lays out a detailed application process and specifies exactly what the historic commission can consider.

The change is far from final. Another hearing must be held. In addition, several residents have suggested changes, including turning the historic commission’s duties over to the town board, whose members are elected.

Plus, the commissioners agreed the county should develop the application that the historic board would review. Currently, there isn’t one, said historic commission member Nancy Miluck.

The amendments will be considered again in December. If major changes are proposed beyond what’s been suggested, the language would repeat the first step in the review process to give everyone time to comment.