Court’s ruling allows Tahoe pier
CARSON CITY – A federal appeals court has cleared the way for casino lobbyist and developer Harvey Whittemore and Larry Ruvo, Nevada’s largest liquor wholesaler, to build a pier in front of their lakefront properties on Lake Tahoe’s upscale Glenbrook Bay.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided Wednesday to overturn a federal magistrate’s finding that blocked the controversial project by holding that part of Ruvo’s property had access to Glenbrook’s existing community pier.
The earlier finding by Magistrate Robert McQuaid of Reno was crucial to pier opponents because the California-Nevada Tahoe Regional Planning Agency had said the new pier could be built only if there was no legal access to the community pier.
The three-judge circuit court opinion, written by Judge Kevin Duffy, sided with attorneys for Ruvo and Whittemore who argued the prior owner of the Ruvo land parcels that lacked legal access never was formally assigned contractual access rights to the community pier.
Duffy said the Ruvo-Whittemore lawyers contended that even if the assignment had been made by the Glenbrook Homeowners Association, or GHOA, it would have gone to the former owner, Edward Fein, and not to the land parcels.
“Accordingly, the Fein parcels do not have a right to use the GHOA community pier,” Duffy wrote in agreeing with the pier advocates’ arguments.
“We’re thrilled with the decision,” said attorney Leif Reid, who represented Ruvo and Whittemore on the pier issue. “The pier can be built.”
“GHOA’s pursuit of these claims always was motivated by vindictiveness, and we’re glad that the 9th Circuit Court showed that GHOA’s opposition to this pier was without merit and substance,” Reid added.
Mark Gunderson, attorney for the homeowners, wasn’t immediately available for comment.
The ruling Wednesday from the federal appeals court followed a California Superior Court decision in a separate case earlier this summer to let Ruvo and Whittemore move ahead with plans for a 300-foot-long floating pier with up to four boat lifts.
Ruvo and Whittemore, both multimillionaires, have spent heavily for lawyers and other costs for their protracted pier-building battle that has played out in federal, Nevada and California courtrooms, the Nevada Legislature and the bistate TRPA over the past several years.
The controversy dates to at least 1999, when Whittemore slipped in an amendment to a pending bill in the Nevada Legislature that could have helped in his pier efforts. The amendment to what became known as the “Piergate” bill was deleted after lawmakers heard protests from Glenbrook residents opposed to the plan.