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Rejected master plan change challenged

by Christy Chalmers

The Nevada Supreme Court may be asked to overturn a Douglas County Commission decision to reject a master plan change involving farm land on the southern edge of Gardnerville.

Todd Russell, an attorney for Lampe Corners Ltd., the group that sought the change, said Tuesday he plans to file a request by Friday for an order granting approval of the change. If the change is granted, the developers could then proceed with a request for complementary zoning changes that would allow development of the land.

The county commission in September refused the group’s request to change the designated master plan land use for 30 acres at the corner of Highway 395 and Waterloo Lane. The property is currently slated for agricultural use, but proponents wanted a commercial designation for 7.68 acres and a change to community facilities for the rest.

The commission’s vote was 3-2, which normally would be enough for approval. But under county code, master plan changes require a two-thirds margin of approval, which would be at least four of the five commissioners.

Russell said he is challenging the decision based on a state law that says a simple majority – the 3-2 margin – is enough.

“It’s our belief that essentially, it’s really clear that in regard to those amendments only a simple majority is required,” he said. “By requiring a supermajority, we think the Douglas County Commissioners are in violation of the law.”

Russell said the county planning commission, which advises the county commission, needs a supermajority to recommend approval of master plan changes, but under state law the rule doesn’t apply to the county commission. In deciding against the Lampe Corners request, the county commission overruled the lower board, which had recommended approval of the change.

Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle is on vacation and unavailable for comment on the pending request. Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins declined to comment until the request is filed and served.

Asked if state law supersedes county codes, Perkins responded, “I guess that’s the question that would be answered in the lawsuit. The county code is what the decision making is based on.

“I don’t know how that argument plays out,” he added. “I’ll have to read what they have written.”

Since the initial rejection of the change, the county commission has reconsidered the vote, but none of the members switched their stances. The two who voted against the change, Bernie Curtis and Jacques Etchegoyhen, objected because the land is in a flood plain and they were concerned about the impact of the new land uses on downstream users.

Roger Falcke, one of three partners in Lampe Corners, Ltd., said the group had worked to mitigate any flood problems. He also argued that the change is logical for the property, because it is no longer viable for agricultural use.

“I don’t want to ruffle anyone’s feathers, but we had the support of the town of Gardnerville and county staff was behind us,” he said. “It’s not fair to have a minority of two commissioners speak for the majority of the people.”

– Staff Writer Linda Hiller contributed to this report.