Asking is everyone’s right
August 2, 2018
One of the five freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is the right to petition the government.
In most people's minds that involves having a bunch of people signing a list and presenting it to whatever branch is in charge of what you want.
But for most of the actual petitions the government receives, it's very different.
Most petitions received by Douglas County commissioners aren't from hundreds of residents protesting something.
Most of them are from a single business or person asking for something that is either prohibited by county code or isn't addressed.
Setbacks in places where development tended to be haphazard in the county's past, like historic Genoa, or spots in Lake Tahoe are common requests for the planning commission.
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Pretty much any request to increase density or change zoning is someone petitioning the government.
People have made a lot of money over the years petitioning the government. It's one of the ways the Union Pacific Railroad became one of the largest landowners in the country.
For a time, the government encouraged people to take over sections of vacant land to farm. That's one of the reasons Johnson Lane looks the way it does.
Today, Douglas County commissioners will hear a list of seven variances being sought by the developers of the Ranchos Sierra project. They're not seeking approval of a project on that 80 acres. That parcel was slated for development a decade ago.
But developers are seeking a way to make the project more palatable, and residents are hoping that denial of that will make it less likely to occur.
The owner of that property has an absolute right to ask for the changes. The county, however, is under no obligation to grant those changes.