County settles legal battle over parks fee | RecordCourier.com
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County settles legal battle over parks fee

by Susie Vasquez

A lawsuit filed against Douglas County concerning reimbursement to developers for park construction has been settled. According to County Manager Dan Holler, everyone benefits and it won’t cost the county an extra dime.

County officials will pay the balance owed to the developers of Chichester Estates for construction of Stodick Park, about $600,000, in annual $150,000 payments over four years.

In exchange, county officials will be allowed to use the residential construction tax money for other neighborhood parks.

“The issue evolved when Chichester built the park for the county. Under the agreement, they were to be reimbursed from the residential construction tax,” Holler said.

That tax was dedicated to the Stodick project in 1995 for 16 years, the cost just over $2 million. Following that agreement, Arbor Gardens in Gardnerville asked for the same consideration for its small neighborhood park. When county officials offered to waive the residential construction tax rather than pay developer Syncon Homes for the Arbor Gardens park, Chichester developers filed suit, charging the fee waiver cut into their payments.

This agreement frees the county to work with Arbor Gardens or any other new project, Holler said.

Douglas County focuses on parks that are regionally oriented, but towns and developers like greenbelts in their neighborhoods.

County officials divided the county into four major regions and these local parks are funded through regional construction taxes specific to their area, said Scott Morgan, Douglas County’s community services director.

“But by court order, all of the money from the area designated as ‘3A’ has been flowing into Chichester,” he said. “We’ve paid a big price for that decision.”

This was not the first time the park became a bone of contention. Chichester developers sued the county in the mid-1990s when the cost of improvements burgeoned from an estimated $1.7 million to $2.4 million.

The courts agreed, calling the decision to add the improvements “arbitrary and capricious.”

Morgan argued that in addition to objecting to basic improvements like asphalt paths and special lighting designed to reduce the impact on neighboring homes, Chichester developers reduced the size of the park from 15 to 11 acres during the planning stage, Morgan said.

Landowner Anita Stodick donated the additional four acres to complete the park, Morgan said.

“They built the park and then sued the county, saying the standards were excessive,” Morgan said. “They had to complete the park to start the development so we assisted them in laying sod, but we got no credit for working with them.

“Their time constraints drove the price of that park up,” he said.

According to court records, the park was completed in the late 1990s, its value at the time set at $2.03 million.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.