Petition drive continues despite Park lawsuit
Organizers of a petition drive to overturn approval of an agreement between the county and Park Ranch Holdings said they’ll continue to gather signatures despite a lawsuit filed last week.
Park Ranch Holdings is challenging the legality of the petition drive, arguing that a development agreement with the county was administrative, not legislative, and therefore not subject to the petition process.
The lawsuit was filed in Ninth District Court against the Committee to Repeal Douglas County Ordinance 2019-1566-A, the five committee members and Douglas County.
Park is seeking a writ to halt the petition before its organizers have completed gathering signatures.
Park attorney Mark Forsberg argues that unlike the case that paved the way for the county’s growth cap, the petition does not set policy but seeks to overturn a single action by the commission.
While voters have been given wide latitude to overturn legislative action that sets policy, like the growth cap, Forsberg argues that despite being enacted as an ordinance, the approval of the agreement in December was administrative not legislative
The lawsuit seeks to prevent the county from verifying the signatures being gathered.
In a statement issued on Friday night, petition committee Chairwoman Jeanne Shizuru said they are considering their options.
“We’ve gathered 1,600 of the 2,613 signatures needed so far,” Shizuru, wife of Commissioner Dave Nelson, who’s seeking re-election. “I guess Park must be worried that we are going to succeed. Our deadline isn’t until June 12, 2020, and we’ve only been circulating our petitions for about six weeks.”
Announced commissioner candidates Walt Nowosad and Mark Gardner are also members of the committee.
The petition is in response to Douglas County commissioners Dec. 3 decision to approve the development agreement 3-2 that trades the right-of-way for Muller Lane Parkway across Park Cattle for capping receiving area at 2,500 homes.
Commissioners Barry Penzel, Larry Walsh and Wes Rice voted in favor of the change. County commissioners also approved a master plan amendment that moves receiving area from Topaz Ranch Estates to Park property north of Minden and Gardnerville.
Shizuru agrees that the actual master plan amendment can’t be overturned by the petition. In his filing, Forsberg said Park has already recorded the easement for the Parkway and easements for flood control along Highway 88, and has fulfilled its part in the contract with the county.
He argued unilaterally reversing that contract would be in violation of the Nevada and U.S. constitutions.
Both Shizuru and Forsberg cite Garvin vs. Douglas Ninth District Court, where the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the voters have wide latitude to challenge legislative action.
In that case, the petition and the initiative made it to the ballot and was challenged after voters approved it in 2002. The Supreme Court ruled the measure was legislative, not administrative. Approval of the current growth cap in 2007 resulted in the case being settled before a trial could be held on the original lawsuit. That approval coincided with the beginning of the Great Recession. The county has not hit the compounded growth cap since it was approved, or even the original 280-home limit originally approved by voters.
No hearing date has been set for the case.
The deadline for petitioners to gather their signatures is June 12, or three days after the primary election, which is expected to determine the makeup of the county commission come Jan. 1, 2021.
Residents of Orchard Road have sued the county over the approval of the master plan amendment and development agreement, because the agreement moves the right-of-way of Muller Parkway to their back property line.
The challenge to the Park decision is the second petition being distributed by residents in opposition to commissioners’ actions.
A petition to place the redevelopment area No. 2 at Stateline on the ballot is also being distributed and should be due at the county in April for verification of signatures.