Las Vegas Sun

July 4, 2015

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Nevada Supreme Court: Law restricting development near Red Rock unconstitutional

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that a 2003 state law to prevent development adjacent to the Red Rock Conservation Area is unconstitutional.

The court said the law, sought by then state Sen. and now U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, is invalid because it violates the prohibition in the Constitution of local or special laws that regulate county business.

It’s a victory in the drawn out court battle for Gypsum Resources LLC that in 2003 purchased 2,500 acres adjacent to the conservation area for potential residential development.

The Clark County Commission approved a new zoning district restricting development next to the Red Rock lands and included a provision that it would refuse to entertain requests for zoning variances.

Titus convinced the Legislature to enact a law that would prevent future county commissions from granting variances to permit development. She told lawmakers it would be tougher for a developer to get a state law passed to permit variances than it would be to get county commissioners to change their minds and allow a change in the no-development ordinance.

Gypsum sued in federal court to invalidate the state law. It won at the District Court level, and the case is now on appeal with the U.S, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked the Nevada Supreme Court whether the 2003 law was constitutional.

The appeals court said its decision would depend on the answer from the Nevada Supreme Court.

In an opinion written by Justice Ron Parraguirre, the court said the 2003 law is local and regulates county business, which is barred by the Constitution.

He said Senate Bill 358’s “practical effect is to remove Clark County’s zoning powers over Gypsum land.”

Parraguirre cited a prior case when the court ruled the Legislature was wrong in sweeping $62 million from the Clean Water Coalition in Southern Nevada to balance the state’s budget.

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