TRPA will pay land-owner $600,000 |

TRPA will pay land-owner $600,000

Without discussion, the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Wednesday agreed to spend $600,000 to settle a lawsuit the regulatory board has faced since 1991.

It marks the first time TRPA has settled litigation by paying a property owner. Legal counsel for the plaintiff, 84-year-old Sacramento resident Bernadine Suitum, have called the action “a major victory for property owners.”

Bernadine and John Suitum bought a lot on Lake Tahoe’s northeast shore in 1971 for $5,000. They planned to build a retirement home there, and for years – before tough building restrictions were implemented – houses were built all around the parcel.

John Suitum died in 1982. Bernadine Suitum submitted plans to build on the lot in 1989 but was told it was in a stream zone and couldn’t be built upon.

She sued in 1991, claiming that denial constituted a taking of her property. Therefore, Suitum argued, she must be reimbursed for the taking.

The case went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, which ruled that the case should be tried in a federal court in Reno. The trial had been scheduled this month.

In the terms of the proposed settlement, no party will concede liability, Suitum will dismiss her lawsuit and turn her property over to the Nevada Division of State Lands, and TRPA will pay her $515,000.

A business called the Pacific Legal Foundation helped represent Suitum in the Supreme Court, and TRPA in February approved an $85,000 settlement with that agency.

That brings the total cost to TRPA to $600,000.

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