Supreme Court upholds public access
November 29, 2007
The Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against a group of Tahoe lakefront homeowners who were trying to block public access to the beach in front of their homes.
The property in question is a 1,000-foot strip of land ranging from 15-50 feet wide just south of Cave Rock alongside the Lincoln Park subdivision.
The property owners involved are Milligan-Tahoe LLC, Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwok Indians, Jeffrey and Suzanne Lundahl, Thomas and Nancy Tornga, Paul and N.K. Chamberlain, and Todd and Anne Taricco.
They have been fighting for years to prevent other residents in the subdivision and the public from using the beach area behind their homes, claiming it is private property.
District Judge David Gamble found that a 1921 plat map dedicated a piece of that property to Douglas County for a future “unnamed beach road.” The irregular strips of land bordering that property were dedicated to the county as well in 1946.
The property owners challenged the district court’s finding, saying there is no valid public and private easement for the land and that there have been three prior actions about the property in their favor. They also argued the county had surrendered the easements to them when they made improvements on the land, including building fencing.
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The high court unanimously agreed with Gamble that the county has valid easements to that land for public use and other purposes. The order states it is reasonable to conclude that “a dedication of a street over a beach area should be interpreted as providing a path for access along the beach.”
The earlier efforts by the property owners, the order states, are all void because no legitimate effort was made to notify other landowners who might want to dispute that issue. As a result, those efforts were never contested because no other residents knew about the legal hearings.
As to the property owners’ other argument, the court agreed with Gamble that government property cannot be taken that way.
“It is irrelevant that the landowners had made improvements to the land and had fenced it in,” the order states.
But the property owners won on one point when the Supreme Court reversed the order that they pay the county and other area residents who joined in the battle $69,229 in attorneys’ fees.
“No authority supports the award of attorney fees in this case,” the order concludes.
All seven justices supported the ruling.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.