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Genoa decision going to Supreme Court

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

Douglas County will appeal a District Court ruling that appears to give a Genoa advisory board special zoning power.

The county commission voted unanimously Thursday to ask the state Supreme Court to review the decision and “provide more clarity.”

“I think we absolutely need some more clarity on what this is and where’s it’s going,” said Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen.

The Sept. 27 ruling by District Judge Dave Gamble said the Genoa Historic Commission District board can consider the size of a building in deciding whether a project fits the town.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Chally said in a memo to the commission that the ruling could undermine the county’s 1996 master plan because it asserts the county commission delegated its zoning authority to the historic board. If so, the historic board’s tastes could supersede standards the county set, he said.

“Never did this commission intend for any advisory board to become a regulatory authority,” said Commissioner Don Miner.

“It negates a good portion of the master plan,” said Commissioner Bernie Curtis.

Chally said the appeal could focus on the court’s assertion that the county commission intended to delegate the zoning power and whether the board would have the authority to do that. The county could also seek legislation that clarifies the existing law and reaffirms the county’s position, he said.

Earlier in the year, the historic board was asked to review a 12,280-square-foot hotel-retail building that Bettie Kanelos wants to build at the northwest corner of Nixon and Main streets.

Each accused the other of not providing enough information for action, and they disagreed over the building size. Town residents said it would dwarf surrounding buildings, while Kanelos said a smaller building wouldn’t be financially feasible.

After the historic commission denied the project, Kanelos appealed to the county commission, whose lawyers said size could not be a factor in approving the project.

The county commission approved the project in June. Soon after, several Genoa residents formed a non-profit group called Support Historic Genoa, Inc. and went to court.