Trial set in February on Sustainable Growth Initiative | RecordCourier.com

Trial set in February on Sustainable Growth Initiative

by Regina Purcell, Staff Writer

While lawsuits surrounding the controversial growth-limiting initiative mount, implementation has been blocked by an extended temporary restraining order and a February court date.

Developers and contractors, real estate agents, attorneys and plaintiffs, including the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee and Douglas County representatives, filled Douglas District Court during Thursday’s injunction hearing before Judge Michael Gibbons.

“We’re back where we were in November,” Gibbons concluded after he extended a restraining order. He will issue a court order to include specific language requested by attorneys for and against the initiative.

Gibbons set a Feb. 11, 2003, trial date to decide on a permanent injunction in enforcing the Sustainable Growth Initiative.

Voters approved the SGI Nov. 5 and Tuesday the Nevada Supreme Court upheld the vote despite several legal challenges. The initiative limits new dwelling units in Douglas County to 280 per year.

Gibbons said it is “proper” to extend the restraining order because plaintiffs in the case are more likely to suffer financial harm than defendants, Douglas County or the SGI committee members.

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He also granted Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle’s request to include language in the order that it does not affect the county’s ability to follow the Master Plan’s growth management strategies, including a hydrology study and Capital Improvement Plan.

Kelly Chase, attorney for the Douglas County Building Association, was opposed. He said the county never would have started a hydrology study or CIP without SGI.

He said “irreparable harm” is happening now to his clients, the DCBIA and contractors in Carson Valley.

Chase said several times he is confident he will win the case on the basis the law is unconstitutional and deprives people of their property rights.

Bill Shaw, a Minden-based attorney for the SGI committee, asked the county to maintain a record of building permits issued after Nov. 5 and stop issuing additional permits for new dwellings units after the number reaches 280.

Thursday’s court hearing addressed several issues related to the controversial SGI.

Gibbons held a meeting with attorneys in the case Tuesday regarding the Supreme Court decision that the ballot initiative was proper for voters to decide. He said all parties agreed to go forward with the original temporary restraining order case filed by Minden-based Jumpers LLC and Century 21 Clark Properties, which 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 Oct. 3 by the Douglas County Commission.

However, Gibbons cautioned the issue is still at the Supreme Court level because the plaintiffs in that case, Nevada Northwest LLC, can request a rehearing on the matter.

If Nevada Northwest does not request the rehearing, the case will be sent back to District Court within 15 days.

Nevada Northwest received approval in November 2001 to build a casino in Minden that will include more than 300 housing units.

Gibbons granted the SGI committee to be included in the case he heard Thursday, despite the plaintiffs’ attorneys opposition that it would delay proceedings. Shaw filed a motion Thursday that the inclusion of the committee would not delay proceedings.

Gibbons granted a motion to consolidate another lawsuit filed Dec. 12 by Carson Valley-based developers, the Douglas County Building Industry Association, Aurora Land LLC and Merill Constriction.

Because of that consolidation approval, Gibbons ruled the trial would not start Thursday as expected because new attorneys are included and must get up to speed with the pre-trial process.

Gibbons ruled any financial damages would be heard at a future date, whether it comes from lawsuits expected either by Nevada Northwest or other interested parties.

Gibbons ruled other interested parties, who may want to be consolidated in the Jumpers case, have until Dec. 27 to do so.

In other related action, Gibbons said Judge David Gamble of Douglas District Court, Department One, issued an order Thursday that it was proper for the court to grant consolidation of the DCBIA suit.

Gibbons also asked attorney Jan Wright if her client, Wally’s Hot Springs & Spa in Genoa, anticipated filing a lawsuit. The business has additional phases of construction planned to accommodate more time share units.

Wright said her client applied for permits to expand its operation, but whether they will file suit depends on if they are denied.

Doyle said the county is expecting many more lawsuits associated with SGI, including another suit filed Thursday by Syncon Homes that alleges it has a development agreement with the county and should not be included in any growth-limiting process.

Doyle said he will contact the attorneys for Syncon to determine if they want to be consolidated with the Jumpers’ case.

Doyle also told Gibbons there are a number of additional issues that need to be addressed: whether the magic 280 number applies to affordable housing projects under Title 20; if it affects development agreements and what exactly is a dwelling unit; and whether it applies to time share properties.

n Regina Purcell can be e-mailed at rpurcell@recordcourier.com