Storey County wins Cordevista fight | NevadaAppeal.com
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Storey County wins Cordevista fight

Karen Woodmansee
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

A judge has found that Storey County was justified in denying a master-plan amendment for a developer that would have brought more than 11,000 homes and commercial development to the state’s smallest county.

Blake Smith, then-managing partner for Virginia Highlands LLC, sued the county on Sept. 11, 2007, for rejecting the amendment and zone change that would have allowed the development of the homes and commercial projects on 11,000 acres the company owns in central Storey County.

The case was argued before Justice Miriam Shearing of the First District Court on Sept. 22 by Stephen Mollath, attorney for developers Virginia Highlands LLC, and Mark Gunderson, attorney for Storey County.

Mollath argued that the county unfairly required the developer to seek a master plan amendment even though the developer believed that when read in its entirety, the project of homes, offices and stores on former industrial property in the center of the county was consistent with the county’s master plan. He also stated that the high risk industrial designation given to the property, which had been the location for explosive and jet fuel manufacture and testing, was the result of litigation, not a “rational planning process” as required by law.

He also argued that the developer should be able to pursue a zoning application, which the judge also denied, since the zoning application was never considered.

Virginia Highlands LLC filed a request for judicial review of the Storey County Commission’s Aug. 21, 2007, decision denying the request in the face of strong community opposition to the project.

Mollath argued that community opposition was not sufficient reason to deny the request, adding that public input should come at the tentative map stage of the application process.

However in her decision, Shearing agreed with Gunderson that Storey County officials acted within their rights, and that the proposed Cordevista subdivision was inconsistent with the county’s master plan. She said municipalities had broad discretion in making zoning and land-use decisions.

In her decision, Shearing indicated that the section of the master plan that covers the property indicates its location, four miles away from any other development in the county, therefore suitable to the high-risk industrial land use, and could not be ignored or read out of the master plan.

“Commissioners were looking to attract other businesses of this type,” she wrote. “They were not looking to the past, but had a rational basis for maintaining the high-risk designation into the future.”

In addition to overturning the commission’s denial, Virginia Highlands LLC sought $10,000 in damages, which the judge also denied.

Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com