Nevada Supreme Court tanks Douglas County super majority ordinance |

Nevada Supreme Court tanks Douglas County super majority ordinance

by Christy Chalmers

The Nevada Supreme Court has thrown out a Douglas County ordinance requiring a “super majority” of affirmative votes for master plan changes.

The decision means a Carson Valley developer will get a master plan change allowing development of a strip mall on several acres near the corner of Highway 395 and Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville.

The developers, Roger Falcke and Herbig Properties Ltd., had asked Douglas County to change the master plan designation for 30 acres of pasture land south of Waterloo Lane. They wanted to change 22.87 acres of the land from agricultural to community facilities, with the rest to become commercial.

A strip mall was proposed for the commercial area, and the developers suggested the rest could be used to expand Lampe Park.

The county commission voted 3-2 in 1999 to grant the change, but the decision was considered a rejection because a county ordinance requires a super majority of votes, which in the commission’s case would be four of five.

Falcke and Herbig took the case to the high court, arguing that state law only requires a simple majority and Douglas County leaders overstepped their authority by requiring the super majority.

Justices Cliff Young, Deborah Agosti and Myron Leavitt agreed.

“Given the Legislature’s decision to not impose a heightened voting standard under (state law), we conclude that the board cannot independently impose this requirement,” they wrote in a nine-page opinion issued Friday. “Because the Legislature specifically excluded any reference to a two-thirds or super-majority voting requirement by the board, we further conclude that the Legislature intended to require only a simple majority vote by the board to approve a master plan amendment.”

The high court also approved a request for an order granting the master plan change.

Douglas Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins, who handled the case for the county, said Friday he hadn’t seen the opinion, but didn’t anticipate sweeping changes for the county.

“It’s fairly simple. What it means is master plan amendments still require a super majority of the planning commission but a simple majority for the board of commissioners,” he said.

Perkins said he didn’t know of any other Douglas County master plan requests that might be affected by the ruling.

Attempts to reach Falcke and his lawyer were unsuccessful.

When the project was presented in 1999, Falcke indicated the 22.87 acres could be used to expand Lampe Park, but the two county commissioners who voted against the change said they couldn’t overlook the land’s location in a flood plain.

With the Supreme Court order, the developers can proceed with requests for zoning changes that will allow development of the land.