Our View: Of property rights and zoning

The fact that Don and Toni Langson have pursued their lawsuit against Carson City this far shows how strongly they feel about their property rights.

The fact that they keep losing, however, shows that property-rights law tends to lean towards government planning agencies as they grapple with ways to sort out competiting land uses.

It's been six years since the odyssey began, or perhaps nine years - depending on when you start counting. And that's part of the difficulty in assessing this case. It's all about the timing of zoning changes to their property near the Carson City Airport.

In the Langsons' view, the case is about how city officials were able to take away their rights to develop a mobile-home park on the 39-acre property. For the city, however, it's about the ability to make zoning revisions - this one going back to 1991 - without compensating property owners for every conceivable use of their property in perpetuity.

The issue is a tough one, and that's why both sides continue to argue it. The sympathy in our gut is with the Langsons, because we fully support the rights of private property owners to be able to develop their land, especially when they've relied on past permitted uses of the land.

But our heads say that government has a responsibility to enact reasonable and necessary zoning changes, and so far the courts have found the city acted properly in respect to the Langsons' land. We don't agree with their contention that the zone change was some kind of collusion with the Airport Authority.

Whether this case continues a path through federal court remains the decision of the Langsons. We've not seen much, however, to make us think the results are going to come out any differently.


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