NRS Fails Homeowners

As homeowners and property owners, we’ve seen the irresponsible decisions made by the Washoe County Commission and the Reno City Council.  These are decisions that detract from the appeal of the area and some of them affect our properties directly.

There is a pretty straightforward process to appeal a decision of the Reno Planning Commission or the Washoe County Planning Commission to the City Council or the County Commission.  But, what do you do when the City or County decide against your interests?  The next step is to go to court with a “petition for judicial review”.  You are requesting a district court judge to review the decision by the City or County.  The statute (NRS 278.3195.4) is written so that:

If you appeal the Planning Commission decision AND you appeal the County Commission (City Council) decision, then you can petition for judicial review.  OK.

But,

If the Planning Commission decides in your favor so that you don’t appeal, but the County Commission reverses that decision, then you may not petition for judicial review.  This makes no sense.  No one would appeal a decision that went in their favor.

The law needs to change to grant standing whether the homeowner appealed the Planning Commission decision or not.  The homeowner needs to have “participated” at the Planning Commission level which could include speaking during public comment.  The avenues available to citizens to change the law are to submit a  Bill Draft Request (BDR) or to amend an existing bill that is in process.  February is late in the cycle to submit a BDR and each legislator only has one “late” BDR that they can submit.  These are prized and there are usually competing interests for the last one.  I drafted a BDR with some legal help and went to the following State Assembly members.

  • Sarah Peters, District 24
  • Lisa Krasner, District 26
  • Alexis Hansen, District 32
  • Skip Daily, District 31

None were willing to sponsor my BDR as their late BDR.

A fellow WRAP activist tried another approach.  He identified a bill that was being considered by the assembly that impacted part of NRS 278.  He contacted one of the authors of AB5, but was told that this bill was not likely to pass and might be withdrawn.  It would not be a good vehicle to implement our change.  I contacted Assemblyman Howard Watts (District 15) by phone and e-mail.  He had a BDR affecting NRS 278, but he did not get back to me before the deadline the next day (2/12/19).

Now what?!  My experience with citizen-driven legislation has not been encouraging.  If I’d been able to start earlier, I would have had a better chance.  But, the issue only became clear on January 17.  There’s always 2021 to try it again.  I’m concerned that there may be a substantial number of development cases which will be tilted against the homeowners in the mean time.  There is also the opportunity to appeal through the courts.  This case could go to the Nevada Supreme Court on the basis of “due process”.  The NRS denies “equal protection under the law” to homeowners.  An appeal will likely be expensive, and the outcome would be unpredictable.  Lastly, there is some interest in revising NRS 278 more broadly.  It is described as a series of patches upon patches such that it is neither consistent nor logical.  At this point, some BDR’s are submitted to address the shortcomings of previous BDR’s.  It is probably time for a re-write that is consistent with best practices.  This has recently been done by several states.

Official Text: (Note: “governing body” would be City Council or County Commission)

NRS 278.3195
      4.  Any person who:
      (a) Has appealed a decision to the governing body in accordance with an ordinance adopted pursuant to subsection 1; and
      (b) Is aggrieved by the decision of the governing body,
may appeal that decision to the district court of the proper county by filing a petition for judicial review within 25 days after the date of filing of notice of the decision with the clerk or secretary of the governing body, as set forth in NRS 278.0235.
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