SGI upheld by Supreme Court
December 17, 2002
The Sustainable Growth Initiative, which limits the number of new dwellings units to 280 per year, has been an controversial issue in Carson Valley since it was voted into law during the Nov. 5 general election.
While the Supreme Court upheld the initiative, Tuesday, it will not be implemented immediately because of a temporary restraining order issued by Judge Michael Gibbons of the 9th Judicial District Court on Nov. 7.
Gibbons will rule on a temporary injunction on the restraining order and hold a permanent injunction hearing Thursday at 2 p.m.
The plaintiffs in that case, Minden-based Jumpers LLC and Century 21 Clark Properties, filed the temporary restraining order hours after Douglas County Commissioners canvassed the votes from the general election.
Jumpers LLC is the developer of the 31 townhomes behind Arco in North Minden approved by the Douglas County Commission Oct. 3.
Patty Clark, owner of Jumpers and part-owner of Clark Properties Century 21, was distraught about the Supreme Court decision.
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“It’s kind of like sticking a microphone in the face of a dad who just watched his son drown,” she said, when asked for a comment.
Likewise, Carole Thompson, executive director of the Douglas County Building Industry Association, which also petitioned Douglas District Court last Thursday to have the Jumpers LLC/Century 21 Clark Properties lawsuit consolidated with a DCBIA suit, did not have a comment.
“Wow. I don’t think I have a quote,” she said. “I’m surprised.”
Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle and Douglas County Manager Dan Holler met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the repercussions of the decision.
“What we anticipate now is a host of lawsuits and whether they are combined or stay separate is up to various property owners,” said Holler.
“This first hurdle has been cleared, which is that this is a legal matter, and it is a valid subject matter,” said Holler. “Anything else related to the initiative is still pending at the lower court.”
SGI proponents are thrilled at the ruling.
“Hurrah,” said John Garvin, vice chairman of the SGI Committee. The Supreme Court decision “validated our position.”
“It also validates the power of an initiative on a local basis and reaffirms that the initiative process is alive and well.”
In July, Carson Valley developer Nevada Northwest LLC sued Douglas County, its county commissioners, county clerk and the five members of the SGI committee. The developer, which received approval in November 2001 to build a casino in Minden that will include more than 300 housing units, argued that the decision to limit growth must be made by county commissioners not voters.
On Aug. 20, Judge David Gamble of the 9th Judicial District Court ruled the right to file an initiative does not extend to voters on administrative matters. The Supreme Court decision dissolves that ruling.
“This is a great opinion for the initiative process and restores the people’s faith in the process,” said Patty Cafferata, who initially was the attorney for SGI proponents.
Because of a scheduled vacation, Cafferata was replaced by Minden attorney Bill Shaw, who did not return phone calls by press time on the Supreme Court decision.
The high court affirmed and overturned portions of the Foreman case, a 1978 law that Douglas County had argued does not allow land-use zoning to be decided by the initiative process because zoning laws are administrative and not legislative in nature.
The Supreme Court ruled the initiative is legal as a broad policy and not administrative in nature.
The court also overruled the 1978 Foreman law regarding due process and the public hearing procedures, and threw out the ruling that changes to zoning policy were administrative.
There is no appeal process for Supreme Court rulings.
County Commissioner Bernie Curtis said the high court’s ruling did not come as a surprise to him.
“It validates the initiative process to some extent,” he said. “But it is kind of a two-headed sword. The (Supreme Court) ruled against two other initiatives.
“It is a lack of consistency, but maybe now we have it.”
n Regina Purcell can be e-mailed at email@example.com