Judge rules Loop Road measure unconstitutional | RecordCourier.com

Judge rules Loop Road measure unconstitutional

by Claire Cudahy
Plans for the "Loop Road" project would include reducing the existing Highway 50 (pictured) to two lanes through the casino corridor.
Sebastian Foltz / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

An El Dorado County judge struck down a voter initiative prohibiting the city of South Lake Tahoe from taking action on a loop road around Stateline without a vote by residents.

El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Robert Wagoner called the measure “fundamentally flawed,” “unconstitutional” and “unenforceable” during a court hearing Friday in Placerville.

The citizen-generated ballot initiative, which voters approved this November, prohibited the city from “approving” or “supporting” the Tahoe Transportation District’s U.S. 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project — often referred to as the Loop Road Project. It required all city decisions on the proposed project to be put to a residents’ vote.

In July 2016, now-council member Jason Collin filed a lawsuit challenging Measure T, claiming the initiative was “flawed” and an unlawful interference of the city of South Lake Tahoe’s authority. Collin argued that the measure was misleading because the project is not a city project; it’s a federal bi-state project.

Wagoner did not grant the request to have the measure pulled from the ballot. Instead, he said the court would reexamine the measure if it passed — which is exactly what happened Friday.

“The case is over, and what the ruling and judgment says is that the city is enjoined from acting on Measure T because it’s unconstitutional and invalid,” said Tom Watson, city attorney.

“The city’s position in this has been consistent, which is that we wanted the judge to make a determination of how the city was to act in this case. We have a vested interest either way. We’re just glad that the court was clear and advised the City Council how to deal with this situation.”

None of the supporters of the measure who were named “real parties in interest” in Collin’s lawsuit — Laurel Ames, John Cefalu and Bruce Grego — were in attendance. Bill Crawford, who died in November, was also named. Supporters could not be reached for comment before press deadline Friday.

Collin was out of town for the court date, but told the Tribune he was happy with the outcome.

“I’m very pleased with the result,” he said. “I’m sorry that it took this long and took up time and resources from our community, but I think it’s a great outcome and will help lead us in a positive direction.”

Measure T, as well as the U.S. 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project itself, has been a divisive issue in the community. It was placed on the ballot after a group known as Let Tahoe Decide collected 1,459 signatures in favor of allowing residents to vote on any input the city of South Lake Tahoe has on the project.

The Loop Road Project is currently awaiting approval of its draft environmental document, which is expected out halfway through 2017. At that point, the public will be able to comment on it.