By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: The city of Henderson is seeking legislation that one critic says would make it more difficult for Southern Nevada residents to challenge land use decisions by local governments.
Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, founder of Northwest Residents For Responsible Growth, has sent an email to members of the state Senate voicing her objections to Senate Bill 85, which passed out of the Senate Government Affairs Committee on March 2. It was amended and has not yet come to the full Senate for a vote. If approved by the Senate it would then be considered in the Assembly.
“As someone who is very involved in the community and focused on quality life issues – which always seem to center on land use and zoning – this bill places an unfair bias on the public,” Mayo-DeRiso said in an email to senators.
If a concerned citizen misses a public hearing due to other commitments, a failure to understand an agenda item or for some other reason, the person would have no legal rights to challenge the decision in court later on, she said in a phone interview.
“It is a full-time job to read every single agenda item and make sure that you are aware of what is going on,” Mayo-DeRiso said.
Renny Ashleman, lobbyist for the city of Henderson, said the legislation is necessary so officials can know what issues may be raised in court later on. Existing law already requires an individual to appear in some form to be considered aggrieved, he said. This can be in writing and does not require an appearance at a meeting.
“Our bill says you have to tell us what you are aggrieved about,” Ashleman said.
Ashleman said Henderson has had a problem with people who did not object to a project at a public meeting but later challenged the decision in court.
“They didn’t ask us for a solution; maybe we would have offered them one,” he said. “In any event we don’t make a record of the problem.”
There have also been cases in Henderson where decisions have been challenged for purely competitive reasons, and the bill would prohibit this as well, Ashleman said.
“I don’t think there is a cure for missing the meeting,” he said. “You should have to come and tell us something.”
But it doesn’t have to be in person, Ashleman said. If someone misses an issue, there can be a rehearing as well, he said.
“We have far and away the most liberal law in the United States for the citizens,” Ashleman said. “Most of them require that you have a much tighter nexus to the property. Anybody can come in and tell us for environmental reasons or other reasons, aesthetic reasons, they don’t like what is going on and they are able to do that.”
A similar bill was sought by Henderson city officials in 2009 but it did not pass. Ashleman said the 2009 bill, SB354, also contained controversial provisions regarding gaming enterprise districts. Senate Bill 85, which would apply to land use decisions throughout Clark County but not in any other Nevada county, has no gaming-related provisions, he said.
Other local governments are supporting the bill as well, Ashleman said.
Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, a member of the Government Affairs panel, said there is no intent to preclude the public’s ability to contest land use decisions. The intent is to allow individuals to file protests not only in writing to maintain a position as an aggrieved person, but by email as well, he said.
Mayo-DeRiso said she open to ways to alleviate her concerns about the bill.
“But the last thing we need to do is have a statute, an NRS statute, that supports blocking the public or keeping the public out of those decisions.”
Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, founder of Northwest Residents For Responsible Growth, says the bill would limit the ability of a member of the public to appeal a land use decision:
Mayo-DeRiso says the bill requires proof that you are an aggrieved party:
Mayo-DeRiso says it is a full-time job to try to keep up with land use decisions:
Mayo-DeRiso says Nevada does not need a law to keep the public out of land use decisions:
Henderson lobbyist Renny Ashleman says the city has a problem with people who don’t raise concerns with a proposal at a public meeting but challenge in court later anyway:
Ashleman says a member of the public should be required to state a claim at a public meeting, in person or in writing:
Ashleman says the city and other governments in Clark County have liberal laws allowing citizens to challenge land use proposals:
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