Pursuing the bigger issue at Lakeview | NevadaAppeal.com

Pursuing the bigger issue at Lakeview

Nevada Appeal editorial board

Lakeview homeowners may be relieved that a house proposed as an elderly-care facility is up for sale, but the bigger issue remains unresolved.

First, a bit of background: Karen Kelly, who bought the house in northwest Carson City two years ago, applied with the city for a permit to operate a care center in the home for up to 10 elderly people. As it turned out, she didn’t need a permit from the city because state law adopted in 1999 allows such facilities in residential neighborhoods.

Residents of the pricey subdivision (Kelly’s house is on the market for $789,000) nevertheless objected, pointing out that their neighborhood covenants don’t allow elder-care homes, or other kinds of businesses, for that matter.

They have gone to court to block the care facility, but in the meantime Kelly has put up the for-sale sign.

Moot lawsuit? Not at all. And Lakeview residents will be doing all of us a favor if they pursue – and get – a ruling in court.

The fundamental question is whether the state Legislature can adopt a law that overrides a private contract, in this case the covenants signed by Lakeview residents when they buy a home.

Obviously, a contract can’t be written in violation of law. No one would be trying to defend a contract that said, for example, a racial minority isn’t allowed to buy a house in a subdivision.

But this is a zoning issue, a business issue and a property-rights issue. And it goes beyond elder-care facilities, because the state law also opened residential neighborhoods to halfway houses for recovering drug and alcohol addicts.

Should such facilities be allowed in any neighborhood, regardless of the agreement among homeowners? We don’t think so.

The downside to pursing the lawsuit, of course, is that Lakeview residents might lose. Either way the legal contradiction will be clarified, and for now the neighbors apparently don’t have to worry about a group home opening among them.