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Petitioner attempts to revive Park 2500

Park Cattle Holdings land south of Buckeye Road is the subject of a development agreement and petition.
Kurt Hildebrand

The organizer who didn’t notarize a crucial page of a petition to put a controversial development agreement on the November ballot said she’s considering legal options to revive it.

Jeanne Shizuru, wife of Commissioner Dave Nelson, was the notary who failed to stamp the page that ended up having the petition declared insufficient.

Shizuru is one of the five organizers of the Park 2500 petition, along with commission candidates Mark Gardner and Walt Nowosad. The other two signatories are Lynn Muzzy and Ellie Waller.

The clerk’s office also determined that there were eight signatures in the 500 they reviewed where pages were notarized before they were signed. State law requires that petition pages not be notarized until they’re signed to prevent campaign fraud.

Calling the issue a clerical error, Shizuru is demanding commissioners rescind the clerk’s decision.

“By not hearing the committee’s application to rescind the County Clerk’s decision (with respect to which we disagree on both a factual and a legal basis) as required by the NRS (to wit: at the next meeting after the filing of the request) the county continues to unlawfully attempt to crush this referendum and the will of the people who have signed the petitions in accordance with their constitutional rights,” Shizuru said. “All over a purported, (but in any event easily and readily correctable) error which should have been picked up by the County Clerk’s office as a part of their ministerial duties before the referendum petitions were accepted.”

That’s something Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lewis said the District Attorney’s office told her was against state law.

The county cited Nevada Revised Statute 295.280 which says that after a petition is submitted “the petition must not be handled by any person other than an employee of the office of the county or city clerk until the county or city clerk has attached a certification to the petition.”

Shizuru is relying on a state law that says the county commission must review the petition at the earliest possible meeting. However, that law appears to conflict with the Nevada Open Meeting Law, which requires at least three working days to notice a meeting where action is taken.

Attorneys for the county say that will be June 4. Once commissioners have determined the fate of the petition, then it could be brought to Douglas County District Court for review.

The petition is already being challenged in court because attorneys for Park Cattle Holdings say that the development agreement was an administrative, not a legislative action, and therefore not subject to a referendum.

In December, Commissioners Barry Penzel, Larry Walsh and Wes Rice approved the development agreement and a master plan amendment over the objections of Nelson and Commissioner John Engels.

The master plan amendment moved receiving area off 1,044 acres of the Sleeping Elephant Ranch across from Topaz Ranch Estates to land north of Minden purchased by the Parks in 1995.

Because receiving area allows up to 16 units per acre, the development agreement caps housing on the property at 2,500, less than a sixth of its potential under the master plan. Shizuru told The Record-Courier in December that she was aware that overturning the development agreement would leave the potentially higher density. She said she believes a new county commission could overturn the master plan amendment. That action could be challenged by the Parks in court, requiring the county to defend itself against an illegal taking action under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

One of the motivations in approving the development agreement and master plan amendment was obtaining the right of way for Muller Lane Parkway.

The county has been obligated to build the portion of the parkway across Park land for decades. An agreement for the right-of-way was approved in 2004 and revised in 2007 that gave the county the right-of-way if it constructed.

Shizuru and Nelson have been battling over the right-of-way for the parkway for more than 15 years, participating in a lawsuit over the right of way, which was dismissed in March 2005.

A similar lawsuit over the right-of-way was filed at the beginning of the year by Orchard Road residents.