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Douglas County growth limits go before state’s top court

Just one week after voters approved strict growth limits in Douglas County, the measure’s legality will be tested before the Nevada Supreme Court.

The initiative, that caps new dwelling units at 280 a year in Douglas County, was approved Nov. 5 by 53 percent of voters. The Supreme Court allowed the vote to go forward saying that if voters approved it, the court would take up its legality and constitutionality.

The state high court plans to take up the issue today.



Developers oppose the cap and have won support from the county commission.

Douglas District Attorney Scott Doyle argued that the initiative seeks to overturn three decades of established law affecting property rights.




“It attempts to execute a building permit allocation system contrary to previously declared policy contained in the county’s master plan,” he wrote.

Citing recent decisions in the Fuji Park and Reno trench cases, Doyle argued that planning and development decisions, including issuance of building permits, has been delegated to the county planning board and county commission and can’t be put in a ballot question.

In Carson City’s Fuji Park case and the Reno train trench case, the high court ruled those issues were administrative matters under control of elected boards and not proper subjects for a ballot question.

The group that created the Sustainable Growth Initiative and raised signatures to put it on the ballot argues there is “no legal reason people should be deprived of their constitutional right to vote on the initiative petition.”

“If the people are not allowed to vote, they have no remedy,” the group argued in court briefs.

They argued the initiative doesn’t change an existing law because Douglas County lacks a policy on permit allocations. The petition, filed by Reno lawyer Patty Cafferata, says the commission can still establish a system for issuing permits.

“This doesn’t interfere with that,” she wrote. “It only limits the rate permits can be issued.”

Therefore, she said, the court should uphold the rights of voters to vote on policy matters such as the growth cap.


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