County won’t appeal $66,000 decision |

County won’t appeal $66,000 decision

by Christy Chalmers

Douglas County won’t appeal a judge’s decision ordering the return of $66,000 plus interest that a group of property owners said was wrongly spent on fire trucks.

The county commission, following the advice of Deputy District Attorney Robert Morris, agreed Thursday not to challenge the verdict. Morris said he doubts an appeal would succeed.

The lawsuit was filed in March 1998 by some of the original builders and developers of Wildflower Ridge, a collection of pricey custom homes on 440 acres east of Gardnerville. The seven plaintiffs that filed the lawsuit were among the original developers of the area, which has 93 homes, but not all of the developers joined the suit. Those involved developed 66 lots.

The plaintiffs said they should get back $66,000 in impact fees they paid when they developed their properties. The property owners had agreed to pay $1,400 per house – the standard $400 fee assessed for fire protection in the East Fork Fire Protection District, plus $1,000 for fire protection facilities.

The property owners claimed the extra $1,000 per lot was specifically intended for a fire filling station, which is a well or other water source for filling fire trucks. Instead, the money was used to buy two fire trucks for the Fish Springs Fire Department, which covers the East Valley area.

County officials contended the fire trucks qualified as fire protection facilities, and cited a development agreement that didn’t specifically say facilities would be built. After a two-day bench trial, District Judge Dave Gamble sided with the builders. He ordered the county to return the $66,000 plus interest, an amount that totalled more than $112,000 as of March 1. Minden attorney Mike Rowe, who represented the plaintiffs, said the final figure will depend on when payment is made because interest continues to accrue and the original payments were made at different times.

Morris said payment of attorneys fees has not yet been resolved, and he will update the commission when that happens. Rowe has requested payment for $28,375.44 in fees and costs.

The county commission, which also acts as the governing board for the fire district, decided Nov. 18 to divide the cost of the suit among the entities. The county will pay $20,000, with the fire district to pay the rest.

The commissioners said the decision was meant to acknowledge the county’s role in crafting the development agreements for the project.