Petitioners seek counsel in 2,500 lawsuit | RecordCourier.com
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Petitioners seek counsel in 2,500 lawsuit

Petitioners seeking to place the approval of a development agreement on the November ballot are asking for 60 days to find legal representation.

Meanwhile, a booth is set up at Hamdogs seeking signatures on the petition, which is due at the county next month.

Park Ranch Holdings is suing Douglas County and the five residents distributing a petition challenging approval of the transfer of development rights.

Jeanne Shizuru, Ellie Waller, Lynn Muzzy, Walt Nowosad and Mark Gardner responded to the lawsuit in March.

Both Gardner and Nowosad are running for county commissioner. Muzzy’s wife Jan is one of Gardner’s two campaign managers and Shizuru is married to County Commissioner Dave Nelson, who is seeking re-election.

The petition was filed Dec. 15, a dozen days after county commissioners approved the development agreement and master plan amendment 3-2 that moved receiving area from Topaz Ranch Estates to Carson Valley in exchange for Muller Parkway’s right-of-way.

Park filed suit against the county and the petitioners, challenging the legality of the process, arguing that a development agreement is an administrative, not legislative act, and therefore not subject to an initiative.

In her answer to the lawsuit, Shizuru described the group as “a ragtag group of civic-minded volunteers,” seeking to put the issue before voters.

She said that petitioners are seeking a 60-day continuance while they attempt to find an attorney who will take the case pro bono.

Nowosad wrote that if Park really had a case they would have filed for an order to stop petitioners from gathering signatures. He cited the right to petition the government.

The only response to the lawsuit filed by an attorney was from Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Doug Ritchie.

In the answer filed March 31, Ritchie said the county agrees with the Parks that a petition is not “a proper subject for the referendum process,” and that the referendum is flawed.

Senior Judge Steven Kosach has been appointed to hear the case.

Petitioners have until June 12 to turn in 2,613 valid signatures for verification to put the item on the November ballot. The primary is June 9.

The county is also being sued by residents along Orchard Road over moving Muller Lane Parkway closer to their homes.

In his filing, Park attorney Mark 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 Great Recession. The county has not hit the compounded growth cap since it was approved, or even the original 280-home limit originally approved.