Washoe tribe sues city over subdivision
July 11, 2005
CARSON CITY – The fate of an embattled 500-home subdivision on 120 acres south of here is again in jeopardy, with the Washoe tribe suing Carson City to overturn supervisors’ approval of the project in May.
A zoning change paving the way for a subdivision on vacant land near the Douglas County line narrowly missed approval by the planning commission earlier this spring. The commission gave the plan a favorable 4-2 vote when it needed five votes to succeed.
The proposal was scheduled to come before supervisors whether it passed or failed in the planning commission. But the tribe’s attorneys, citing city codes, say the commission has the last word on amendments of the city’s master plan unless its decision is appealed.
The decision on the development near Schulz Way and Racetrack Road was not appealed, so supervisors, the tribe contends, had no authority to overturn it. The tribe filed the civil lawsuit in Carson City District Court last month, and the city was served last week.
Carson City Deputy District Attorney Melanie Bruketta said city officials did not over-reach their authority.
“State law empowers the Board of Supervisors to regulate and restrict improvements of the land in Carson City,” Bruketta said.
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Neither Tribal General Counsel Tim Seward nor Rob Story, the Reno-area attorney representing the tribe in the lawsuit, could be reached for comment Monday.
The tribe, which owns property adjacent to the proposed development, also charges the subdivision will be detrimental to the environment, public health, safety and cultural resources.
The subdivision, which is planned with lots ranging from 4,000 to 5,000 square feet up to a half-acre in size, would create extra traffic on Center Drive – an unsafe prospect, according to the lawsuit. Tribal members of all ages must regularly cross Center Drive to get to classes, foods programs, athletic events and a variety of other community programs.
The plan would also send more traffic through the historic Stewart Indian School, according to the lawsuit, affecting the cultural significance of the site.
The tribe also contends a subdivision on the swath of land near the Champion Speedway racetrack will damage the Clear Creek watershed and the tribe’s efforts to restore it and reintroduce the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout.
Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira said state laws and city codes force a developer to prove a subdivision won’t endanger the public or harm the environment, and all that comes after supervisors’ passage of the zoning change.
“Those studies have to be complete and those issues have to be addressed,” Teixeira said Monday.
Just before supervisors passed the master plan amendment and zoning change in May, Teixeira told a group of residents who had been opposing the suburban development in their largely rural neighborhood “I don’t know if this project is going to fly after all the studies are done, but I guarantee you we’re going to take a real close look.”
The city has until late August to respond in Carson City District Court.