Supreme court to hear fairgrounds petition case

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In three weeks, Carson City officials and residents will find out whether a petition aiming to preserve the Carson City fairgrounds will be placed on the November ballot.

The Nevada Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the petition at 1:30 p.m. on June 27. The hearing will be heard by all seven justices.

Both Julian Smith, attorney for the Concerned Citizens to Save Fuji Park and the Fairgrounds, the group that filed the petition, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Forsberg had expected a review by a three-member panel of the court. If either side would have been unhappy with the panel decision, they could have appealed to the full court. The full court hearing eliminates a step in the appeal process.

"There's no place to go from here," Smith said. "It will be nice to see it over with."

Forsberg said a hearing before the full Supreme Court is rare "on the first go around."

"I think they recognize it's an issue that can have a lot of impact all over the state," Forsberg said. "They may be aware there's a somewhat similar case coming up in Reno, so they're figuring they may as well get in on it in the beginning."

The justices' decision will likely determine which of two ballot questions will appear on the November ballot. City officials are appealing an April 15 petition signed by 3,400 voters to place a question on the ballot. City leaders believe the petition, which asks that the park and fairgrounds "be maintained and improved in not less than its present size as a park in perpetuity" interferes with their state-granted rights to sell property and is therefore illegal.

Meanwhile, committees formed to draft language for the city's advisory question finished their work and have moved on to draft the wording of the arguments and rebuttals for the petition question under discussion in the Supreme Court. City supervisors have indicated they will choose in July one of the questions to appear on the ballot.

Wayne Pedlar, who worked on the committee in favor of the city's question, said his committee of three tried to focus on the facts of the controversial issue, which he says are that the sale of the fairgrounds would help the city's tax base and wouldn't result in a loss of park property

"We were trying to get out the facts that this is a fiscal question and also that the Board of Supervisors should be allowed to do their job," Pedlar said.

Jon Nowlin, who helped draft language against the city's question, said his side took offense to a line in the rebuttal to their argument that calls the Concerned Citizens a "small, militant special interest group."

"It's not appropriate to characterize the people trying to protect the fairgrounds as a special interest group; 3,400 voters supporting this isn't a special interest group," Nowlin said.

City leaders have looked at commercial development at the fairgrounds off Old Clear Creek Road as a way to compete with commercial development just over the Douglas County line. The backlash in the community created the Concerned Citizens' movement, and forced city leaders to postpone development plans in favor of an advisory vote on the issue.


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