Builders, slow-growth forces clash over Nevada initiatives
April 2, 2003
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Slow-growth advocates clashed with builders Tuesday over a bill adding new requirements to Nevada’s initiative process — used to seek a building permit cap in Douglas County last year.
The debate occurred as the Assembly Government Affairs reviewed Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick’s AB428, which mandates a city or county hold a public meeting where “findings” could be made about merits of an initiative dealing with a local master plan.
“Make no mistake about it, AB428 is directly aimed at stifling the initiative process,” said John Garvin, a leader in the effort to pass the Sustainable Growth Initiative last year in Douglas County.
Jim Slade, also active in the SGI effort, said the group had to battle developers as well as Douglas County. He called the bill “shameless pandering to special-interest groups.”
“Fortunately, the Nevada Constitution guarantees our rights,” said Slade. He and Garvin both said the constitution requires government officials to facilitate rather than impede the initiative process.
Attorney and former lawmaker Patty Cafferata, who represented the SGI group, added AB428 “is strictly to prevent the people from exercising their rights.” She said the bill inserts local government officials into the initiative process — where they have no business because it’s “the peoples’ process.”
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Carole Thompson of the Douglas County Building Industry Association insisted the bill wasn’t aimed at shutting down the initiative process. Instead, she said it would establish “sensible” guidelines.
“When an initiative is in direct conflict with a county or city master plan, it creates uncertainty and disorder for all the people,” she said.
“The amount of time, money and energy it takes to put such a humpty-dumpty situation together again is infinite.”
Minden lawyer Kelly Chase, who with Thompson was part of the group opposing the SGI, argued that the requirements of AB428 would ensure that people got accurate information on initiatives.
That’s critical because with an initiative on a local master plan “you’re putting the constitutional right of property rights up to a popular vote,” he said.
Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said it’s hard to convince critics of AB428 that his bill has merits. “This is about informing the electorate,” he added. “What are they afraid of?”
While opponents of the bill said Douglas County was pushing the plan, Douglas County Manager Dan Holler claimed the county didn’t request the bill and was neutral on it.
However, the county’s lobbyist, Mary Walker, requested introduction of a similar bill, SB279, that’s now pending in the Senate and is being pushed by builders.
Also promoting SB279 is former Douglas County Commissioner Don Miner, whose pro-growth stance figured in his defeat last November. Miner wants Hettrick to make his bill an exact copy of SB279.
The cap on building permits passed easily in November, but a Douglas County judge invalidated it in February. The ruling was sought both by builders and by Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle.
Backers of the ballot question, imposing an annual cap of 280 dwelling units for in Douglas County’s scenic Carson Valley, are appealing to the Nevada Supreme Court.