Judge OKs Indian Hills redevelopment

Douglas County's proposed redevelopment expansion will proceed, following a District Court decision Wednesday.

However, District Court Judge Michael Gibbons followed with a word of caution, saying the Legislature could take another look at redevelopment law in the future.

"As written, redevelopment law in Nevada is broad and the court is not in a position to legislate this matter," Gibbons said. "The court finds the criteria have been met and there is no basis for a writ of mandate."

The decision paves the way for developer AIG Baker to build a new commercial mall on about 100 acres east of Highway 395 in north Douglas County, a measure challenged by Indian Hills General Improvement District officials.

Fearing redevelopment expansion could thwart cityhood efforts by tying up the commercial area just east of Highway 395, Indian Hills officials filed a motion to stop redevelopment, which was approved by county commissioners in early February.

In accordance with the Douglas County Master Plan, that development will enhance economic vitality and wean Douglas County from dependence on state revenues, a source that may not always be available, District Attorney Scott Doyle argued Wednesday.

"The land is being redesignated from forest and range to commercial, residential and open space consistent with what already exists in the area," Doyle said. "These more intense uses require traffic planning, a network of pedestrian pathways and design guidelines as to how development will take place."

Water and sewer planning are implemented in accord with state laws and county ordinances and one of the tools for this type of development is redevelopment, Doyle said.

This north county specific plan totaling 610 acres also provides for planning so the Bureau of Land Management, who owned the proposed commercial area, could realize the true market value of the land sold for the proposed AIG development, he said.

"The proceeds from that sale will be used for other sensitive lands in Douglas County," Doyle said.

Following this decision, negotiations with AIG Baker will be completed, then the measure will be forwarded to the board of commissioners for approval, Doyle said.

AIG, who said the delay was costing them more than $87,000 a month, joined Douglas County in this case in early March.

Indian Hills attorney Scott Brooke lauded the county's efforts, but said the motive is contrary to the purpose of redevelopment.

"Those statements of goals and policies, to the extent they are motives, are irrelevant," he said.

Brooke and Indian Hills attorney Cassandra Jones charged that Douglas officials failed to prove that 75 percent of the affected properties were improved, failed to prove the properties were blighted and failed to find the properties included were necessary for effective development of the area, all defined as the criteria for blight by Nevada law.

Redevelopment in Douglas County is a patchwork stretching along the eastern foothills from Walley's Hot Springs north to the county line.

In his arguments, Brooke said expansion of Douglas County's redevelopment district is driven by development and not blight.

He sited a California legal decision in his arguments.

"Without evidence of blight, there can be no solid justification for asking taxpayers to subsidize the cost of development in another part of the community," Brooke quoted from the California decision. "Government entities use redevelopment as a grub stake to subsidize commercial development, borrowing money on the strength of assured future revenues."

Commercial property is sold at a loss as an inducement to locate in a certain area rather than in a competing county. The immediate benefactors are the subsidized businesses and the immediate losers are the taxpayers, Brooke said.

Jim Bentley, general manager of the Indian Hills General Improvement District, commended Judge Gibbons for his work, saying he was both meticulous and methodical.

"The fact that the law has loopholes is not the judge's fault," Bentley said. "It does suggest a real need to get back into redevelopment law and make some changes."

Considering the outcome, Bentley was not sure an appeal would be made, but a decision is expected soon.

n Contact reporter Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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