The petition for judicial review regarding the County Commission’s decision to overturn the Washoe Planning Commission’s decision got its first day in court Thursday 1/17/19. The Washoe Planning Commission had denied approval of the developer’s plan and the developer appealed to the County Commission. The County Commission voted to overturn the Washoe Planning Commission decision by a 3-1 vote favoring the developer. The petition is filed by Tammy Holt-Still and the Lemmon Valley/Swan Lake Recovery Committee. This initial hearing was to hear a “motion to dismiss” filed by the developer claiming that she didn’t have “standing” to file the petition.
The petition for judicial review represents a step across the divide separating the political (county commission) and the legal (district courts). It can be thought of as an interface between two very different systems. It turns out that this interface is not logical, well defined, or fair. So, the question about what the law demands seems to get more obscure as it is examined in detail. The Washoe County code indicates that anyone can petition for judicial review, while the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) are more specific but do not make sense.
Under NRS, Tammy would have had to appeal both the Planning Commission decision (which went in her favor) and the County Commission decision which went against her. This makes no sense! Why would you appeal a decision that went in your favor?! But, the attorneys and the judge agreed that this is what the NRS indicates. While acknowledging the absurdity of this requirement, the judge was loath to try to interpret the intent of the legislature that passed the law. He did not want to engage in “judicial activism”.
The same does not apply to the developer. He can appeal under different statutes within NRS that allow him to appeal with only the County Commission decision going against him. It is patently unfair. The judge agreed with this perception. It looks like Nevada law is written specifically to favor developers.
Cast of characters:
- Judge Elliott Sattler (ES), Tenth District of Nevada
- Kerry Doyle (KD), attorney for Lemmon Valley residents
- Tammy Holt-Still, petitioner
- Nate Edwards (NE), representing Washoe County
- Doug Thornley (DT), representing Lansing-Arkus (developer)
NE: The Lemmon Valley petitioner has no standing and is harming the property interests of the developer.
KD: The county is seeming to imply that the property interests of the developer outweighs those of the homeowners who have a long term investment.
KD: There is no “stay” to prevent the developer from proceeding with his work.
KD: This is a unique situation. The legislature’s intent was to give people more access to legal remedies not less.
KD: The flood mitigation plan for Prado North depends on features of the Prado (South) development which was just denied in the Reno Planning Commission.
The judge will consider the arguments and issue a ruling at a later date. There may be an appeal in any case. There is also a possibility that the developer may revise the tentative map for Prado (South) to get it through the Reno Planning Commission to bolster their argument for Prado North. Kerry suggested to the Lemmon Valley petitioners that they contact their state representatives to get the NRS statute 278-3195 amended to be clear and logical so that residents would know their rights and have the ability to seek relief in the courts.
It looks a little like the Wild West in terms of the law. There are few precedents that apply to this case which appears fairly routine to a layman. How could this be “unique”? It is the logical step to seek legal relief from a county decision. The Lemmon Valley neighbors may be breaking new ground here.