Supreme Court refuses to reconsider Douglas development ruling

The Nevada Supreme Court refused Friday to reconsider its ruling that voters had the right to impose strict limits on Douglas County development.

At the same time, however, the court refused to award organizers of the Sustainable Growth Initiative attorneys fees and costs.

SGI Committee raised enough signatures to put the issue before voters Nov. 5. But even before voters went to the polls, the initiative was challenged by Nevada Northwest, a developer, and Douglas County officials who argued a zoning issue was not a legal subject for an initiative petition.

District Court Judge David Gamble agreed.

The SGI committee appealed and Supreme Court allowed the public to vote on the issue while legal arguments continued.

Voters decided to impose a cap of just 280 new homes a year in Douglas County. On Dec. 17, the high court upheld that vote as valid. Since then, a district court has barred the growth limit from taking effect, and the legal battle continues.

Friday's Supreme Court decision rejects pleas to reconsider its earlier ruling. It was signed by all members of the court except Justice Mark Gibbons, who was not on the bench during the deliberations.

While upholding the public's right to vote, the December opinion didn't prevent lawsuits over the substance of the ordinance enacted to enforce the new limits.

"We are very pleased with the Supreme Court's ruling," said Judy Sturgis, co-chairman of the Sustainable Growth Initiative Committee.

"We feel it's a victory not only for Douglas County voters, but for the entire state."

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the specific language of the initiative: If it was proper for Douglas District Court to intervene before the election on allowing the ballot question and whether the ballot measure is constitutionally permissible as an amendment to an existing law.

Nevada Northwest LLC, is the original plaintiff in the Nevada Supreme Court case. The Carson Valley developer requested a rehearing on the matter of whether SGI was administrative or legislative in nature.

Douglas County Manager Dan Holler said he was not surprised at Friday's high court rulings.

"There was a 1 percent chance of a rehearing," he said.

Sturgis said the SGI Committee plans to proceed with its appeal to the Supreme Court of the latest ruling Feb. 11 in Douglas District Court. At that time, Judge Michael Gibbons imposed a permanent injunction stalling the initiative.

"We are still open to suggestions to work with the community to slow growth," Sturgis said.


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