Storey County sued over Cordevista |

Storey County sued over Cordevista

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Blake Smith, a Reno-based developer, has filed a lawsuit against Storey County over the county commission’s rejection of the proposed Cordevista subdivision.

Smith’s company, Virginia Highlands LLC, filed a petition for judicial review Tuesday requesting that the court overturn the decision of the Storey County commissioners to deny a request for a master plan amendment and zone change and order the county to approve the applications.

The claim is also requesting that the county pay costs of the lawsuit and attorneys fees along with damages in excess of $10,000.

The master plan amendment and zone change were requested so that Smith could build between 8,500 and 15,000 homes and commercial projects on 11,000 acres he owns in the central part of the county.

The commission on Aug. 21 voted to accept the Storey County Planning Commission’s July 19 recommendation to deny the master-plan amendment and zone change.

The action alleges that Storey County’s denials of the Virginia Highlands applications were erroneous and not supported by evidence.

At both the Aug. 21 and July 19 hearings, attorneys for Smith said there was no need for a master plan amendment; that the zone change request was in compliance with the master plan, a point contradicted by county Building Official Dean Haymore and County Manager Pat Whitten.

Several citizens at the time questioned why a master plan amendment was sought in three town meetings and three previous planning commission meetings.

The petition filed Tuesday says that Smith requested the master plan amendment because he did not want to begin the process with a disagreement.

The lawsuit also calls the requirement for a master plan amendment “arbitrary, capricious and characterized by an abuse of discretion.”

Smith alleges in the suit that the denial was “unlawful, unreasonable and in violations of NRS Chapter 278 and the Storey County Master Plan and Code.”

The lawsuit also claims that Virginia Highlands LLC’s due process and equal rights protections under the Nevada and the U.S. constitutions were violated, and constitutes an unlawful taking.

Among the allegations made by the lawsuit is that the only reason the Cordevista property was referred to in the county master plan as “high-risk industrial” was to settle a 1989 lawsuit between the county and Hi-Shear Technology Corp., after the county wanted to pull Hi-Shear’s special use permit.

The master plan was adopted in 1994.

The county adopted the “special industrial’ zoning for the area in 1999, according to the lawsuit. It further alleges that no other provisions in the master plan call for special industrial use; therefore the special industrial use is inconsistent with the provisions of the master plan.

In 1999 the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center was approved for industrial zoning on 102,000 acres adjacent to the Virginia Highlands property, with a development agreement finalized the following year. The lawsuit alleges that no mixed-use, residential, office or retail component is in the development and it relies on Washoe, Lyon or Churchill counties to provide such services.

The lawsuit also points out that on July 5, 2006, the Storey County Commissioners OK’d a master plan amendment and zone change for 2,000 acres owned by Painted Rock Partners LLC, from forestrys to mixed use, planned unit development and notes that Commissioner Greg “Bum” Hess has an ownership and management interest in the company and therefore recused himself from the vote.

Mark Amodei, an attorney for Blake Smith, has accused Hess of having “an interest in a competing project” and with creating an air of hostility in the community and threatening staff. Hess denied the allegations.

Whitten declined comment on the matter since it was in litigation.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.