Lawsuit filed to stop growth ordinance |

Lawsuit filed to stop growth ordinance

Susie Vasquez

GARDNERVILLE — A lawsuit has been filed challenging the validity of Douglas County’s growth ordinance, charging it undermines public interest and causes adverse economic consequences for the county and the public.

The Coalition for Sustainable Communities, a political action committee and developer J.F. Bawden, owner of Carson City-based Landmark Homes, filed the suit in District Court on July 2.

Citing issues ranging from open meeting law violations to the unlawful restraint of future boards, the plaintiffs want the courts to declare the ordinance unconstitutional and stop enforcement.

The suit also asks for unspecified damages, as well as attorney and other fees.

Commission Chairman Doug Johnson said county officials have not been served and he just found out about the lawsuit.

“We have a growth management ordinance, and it’s in place,” he said. “I don’t know much more than that.”

According to the lawsuit, the imposition of growth restrictions is unlawful, arbitrary and capricious. The measure fails to achieve any legitimate governmental purpose or goal, the suit says.

The ordinance also constitutes a taking without just compensation, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as the Nevada Constitution, according to the lawsuit.

“Bawden is a developer of residential parcels or lots in Douglas County and has expended significant sums or incurred debt obligations in acquiring, developing and/or improving the properties for residential dwelling purposes,” the suit states. “These financial arrangements for development were based on the reasonable and justifiable expectations of use of such properties for residential dwelling purposes.”

Bawden declined to comment.

The Douglas County District Attorney’s office did not return calls before press time.

Approved by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners in early June, the ordinance limits residential growth to a 2 percent compounded rate annually in all parts of the county except the Lake Tahoe basin.

More than a year of public meetings and hearings preceded that approval, but plaintiffs in the suit charge proper procedures were not followed.

The ordinance was revised more than once following initial approval in April and was very different when it received its final approval in June, the suit alleges.

“No public comment was ever received nor allowed on the final version of the Growth Control Ordinance, nor was the public ever provided any meaningful opportunity to be heard on the final version of the ordinance adopted by the board,” the suit states.

John Frankovich of Reno law firm McDonald Carano Wilson is representing Bawden and the Coalition for Sustainable Communities in the suit.

Together with other developers, Bawden filed another suit in district court last June challenging the Sustainable Growth Initiative, which limited the number of homes built to 280 annually on the grounds it would interfere with productive use of their property and their ability to profit from the venture.

That initiative was repealed with the passage of Douglas County’s new growth ordinance.

At that time, former District Attorney Scott Doyle said the plaintiff’s property is subject to discretionary approvals.

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