Opening SGI briefs filed in state court | RecordCourier.com

Opening SGI briefs filed in state court

by Regina Purcell, Staff Writer

The Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee files its opening briefs with the Nevada Supreme Court today to appeal the decision in Douglas District Court that stalled building limits in Carson Valley.

John Garvin of the SGIC said the filing is a procedural process and the high court will not hold a hearing today.

Defendants in the case, Douglas County and Jumpers LLC, Century 21/Clark Properties, Jay D. Marriage, Douglas County Building Industry Association, Aurora Land LLC and Merrill Construction, will have 30 days to file a response. The SGIC will then have another 30 days to file its opposition response.

Garvin said the Supreme Court may decide to hear oral arguments in the case after this process is completed in mid-June.

“That leaves a lot of time to schedule arguments,” Garvin said. “But you have to realize they have a ton of other cases.”

Mediation between the parties broke down last summer after Judge Lester Berkson filed a report to the Nevada Supreme Court in August stating the parties were unable to settle the case.

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The Nevada Supreme Court requires the settlement hearings before an appeal can proceed.

Douglas County is the defendant in the case with the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee named an intervenor.

“The committee is confident that, at the end of this appeal process, the higher court will once again set aside our local court’s ruling and order this initiative to be enrolled as an enforceable county ordinance,” Garvin said. “We believe the Supreme Court will continue to uphold the voter’s right to act as a legislative body and pass a measure to slow the rate of residential growth for legitimate reasons.”

In May last year, Gibbons also denied a request to clarify the constitutional validity of the controversial Sustainable Growth Initiative. He clarified the validity presented for and against SGI, but has no jurisdiction because the issue is under appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The Douglas County Building Industry Association and Syncon Homes also filed an appeal on the constitutional validity issue and is also expected to file its opening briefs today.

Douglas County voters passed the initiative in November 2002 to limit the number of new residential units in Carson Valley to 280 per year.

The Nevada Supreme Court ordered that SGI be placed on the ballot after Douglas County had it removed. In December 2002, the high court ruled that the initiative established new legislative policy long anticipated by Douglas County’s Master Plan. At the same time, the Supreme Court reserved the question of the measure’s constitutionality and other matters to be determined in the future. It was referred back to Douglas District Court and under Gibbons’ subsequent ruling.

The $3.5 million master plan was approved in 1996 with a goal to determine land use and adopt a variety of appropriate growth management tools to direct future growth. Initially, changes to the master plan had to have a 5-2 super majority vote of the Douglas County Planning Commission followed by a 4-1 super majority vote of the Douglas County Commissioners. In July, 2000, the Nevada Supreme Court tossed out the super majority clause, ruling that it contravened an ancient state law requiring simple majority votes on all local matters other than tax changes and the ceding of county land to railroads.

That decision, in effect, cut the planning commission out of the loop as far as approval of master plan amendments.

“Ever since, the million-dollar master plan has been crumbling, picked apart by developers, Realtors and others who know that all they have to do to get their way is to threaten another lawsuit,” said Judy Sturgis, also of the SGIC.

n Regina Purcell can be reached at rpurcell@recordcourier.com or (775) 782-5121, ext. 211.