County Commissioners sued
December 11, 2003
The Alpine View Estates Property Owners’ Association has sued the Douglas County Board of Commissioners over the Clear Creek project.
The association, comprised of residents owning property near the 1,576-acre site, claims that the board failed to take requisite action in approving the resolution and ordinance allowing for construction to begin. Their specific claims are that a majority of the board did not vote to approve and that the board failed to make requisite findings in adopting the resolution.
Also, the 1,156-page suit claims that the amendment goes strictly against the spirit of the Douglas County Master Plan.
“It just seemed to me that somebody needed to put a stop to what the commissioners have been doing for the last six years,” said Ralph Elvik, a spokesman for the Alpine View Estates Property Owners’ Association. “I think that the master plan was created to benefit all the people of the county, which would include the builders and the developers.
“It just seems to me that the forces at work have destroyed the checks and balances within the plan. This has been particularly apparent to us here in Alpine View with this project, but that is just my opinion.”
Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins said the county will begin preparing responsive pleadings.
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“We’ll research the law and review the record ourselves,” Perkins said. “It’ll be some time before that (the response) is out.”
Don Miner, a spokesman for the Clear Creek development, said once the developers have a chance to review the suit, he expects they will probably take a position with the county.
“My concern is for the higher good of Douglas County,” Miner said. “This type of a high-end development will pay more than its fair share of taxes and contribute substantially to the economy of Douglas County.
“It seems to me that this (lawsuit) is a plan conjured up by an attorney hard up for work trying to convince people that the county commissioners don’t have control of the master plan, which they certainly do.”
Miner also said Clear Creek would consider legal action if the Alpine View group seeks to delay the development with an injunction.
“We have some $20 million worth of offsite infrastructure ready to go, and if they look to hault this we’ll certainly look for the appropriate redress from the plaintiffs.
“I encourage the Alpine View homeowners involved in this suit to bring their checkbooks to the proceeding,” he said.
Elvik said Miner is welcome to do as his bosses direct him to do.
“We are optimistic,” Elvik said. “We feel, based on the information that our attorney has prepared, it seems that commissioners were entirely incorrect.
“We believe the commissioners were wrong in accepting the planning department’s information. We didn’t think it was complete in any matter.”
County commissioners voted for approval of the controversial subdivision on Nov. 6. Commissioner Steve Weissinger was absent from the meeting. Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen, an employee of the American Land Conservancy, recused himself from the vote at the advice of Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins, who said his association with the conservancy gives an appearance of impropriety.
Commissioners Bernie Curtis and Kelly Kite voted for the proposed project, while Commissioner Tim Smith voted against, as he had done in a 4-1 ruling for the project in September. The issue appeared before the commission in November because the Douglas County Board of Planning Commissioners had recommended denial twice.
Perkins ruled that the September ruling would stand according to state law because the November vote did not carry the required majority.
It’s on that principle that the property owners’ association is basing part of its argument.
The suit claims that the September motion was not based on any findings — that any alleged findings by the board are based on incomplete, inaccurate and insufficient evidence. The association’s claim is that it will suffer significant damage as a result of the actions of the board.
Along with the suit, the association was granted a peremptory challenge of judge, which shifted the legal actions from District II Judge Michael Gibbons’ courtroom to District I Judge David Gamble’s courtroom.
The association also filed for an injunction preventing the county from taking any actions taken by the county in preparation for and in furthering support of the Clear Creek project. No action has been taken on that request.
The petition asks for the court to issue a writ of mandate denying the resolution and ordinance which would allow the project or a writ that directs the commission to deny the resolution.
Douglas County now has 20 days to respond to the petition.
Clear Creek is being developed on land owned by Valley contractor John Serpa. According to county records, 200 acres of the 1,576-acre property would be built out, with the rest preserved as natural and open space.
The project, located in Northern Douglas County, includes million-dollar homes with a golf course, club house and development of a Highway 50 underpass with access to the site, a water and sewer system to connect to the Valley and the transfer of 410 development rights.
– Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.