TRPA prepares for appeal of court decision |

TRPA prepares for appeal of court decision

by Andy Bourelle

While the trial concluded months ago, a controversial, 15-year-old property rights lawsuit is far from over.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is preparing to ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to appeal last December’s ruling.

The trial is a two-part process: one trial to determine TRPA’s liability and one to determine damages. The second has not been held, and because it has not been concluded in U.S. District Court, TRPA needs permission from both the ruling judge and the court of appeals to move forward in the appeal.

John Marshall, legal counsel for TRPA, said the bistate regulatory agency plans to file the request for appeal by March 15.

Senior U.S. District Judge Edward Reed partially favored both sides in his January ruling. He supported last week moving forward with an appeal.

“While we of course remain convinced that our order is correct, we would be among the first to admit that substantial room for disagreement on the issue exists,” Reed stated in the ruling.

Filed in 1984, the lawsuit Tahoe Sierra Preservation Council vs. TRPA centers around TRPA’s alleged “taking” of property in the 1980s. The lawsuit has more than 400 plaintiffs. It was filed after TRPA issued a series of moratoriums in the 1980s, which stopped property owners from developing in certain environmentally sensitive areas. By law, TSPC argues, TRPA should have compensated property owners for that. The case finally went to trial in December 1998 at Reno’s U.S. District Court. Reed’s ruling said that TRPA was liable for some of the alleged taking of property.

In his ruling last week, Reed said it was important for the appeal to be held before a trial to find damages.

“It is almost certain this appeal will advance the ultimate termination of the litigation in some fashion. If our holding that TRPA’s actions constituted a taking is reversed, then the case will essentially be over, and the parties will never be required to proceed to the damages phase of the trial. If reversal on this point is going to happen, it is imperative that it happen now, rather than after the damages phase,” the ruling states.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that the issue will eventually reach the court of appeals,” it added.

Marshall said he could not estimate how long it would take the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to decide whether to hear the case.

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