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Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 21290
Nos. No. CV-N-84-257-ECR, 34 F. Supp. 2d 1226/48 ERC 1327/(D. Nev., 01/15/1999) ruling on takings claims

The court holds that a planning agency for the Lake Tahoe area must compensate property owners for taking their property through development restrictions. The development plan for the Lake Tahoe area significantly restricts development in high hazard areas to prevent further eutrophication of the lake. The court first holds that the development plan substantially advances a legitimate state interest. The evidence is convincing that further development on high hazard lands would lead to significant additional damage to the lake. Thus, there is a direct connection between the potential development of the property owners' land and the harm the lake would suffer.

The court next holds that the development plan did not effect a partial taking of the property owners' land. The property owners did not have reasonable, investment-backed expectations that they would be able to build single-family homes on their land within the six-year period involved in this suit. The average holding time of a lot in the Lake Tahoe area between lot purchase and home construction is 25 years. Also, the property owners did not provide sufficient evidence of the economic impact that the development plan had on them. Further, the character of the governmental action was reasonable to combat the problem.

The court then holds that an ordinance in the development plan denied the property owners all economically viable use of their land. The land was further restricted during a resolution to the development plan. The resolution suspended all permit approval and, therefore, no uses were permissible. Thus, the property owners are entitled to compensation for the period during the resolution. The court also holds, however, that the property owners are not entitled to compensation for the period after the resolution was superseded by a later development plan. The development plan was not the cause of the takings, injunctions granted by the court were. The injunctions blocked the issuance of any permits to build.

The court next denies the planning agency's affirmative defenses. The fact that the development plan may have been intended to be temporary does not exempt the agency from the requirement of paying just compensation for the denial of the use of their land. Further, the agency did not prove that the nuisance exception to the categorical takings rule applies.

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 17 ELR 20584.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Lawrence L. Hoffman
Law Offices of Lawrence L. Hoffman
3000 N. Lake Blvd., Ste. 1, Tahoe City CA 96145
(530) 583-8542

Counsel for Defendants
J. Thomas Susich
Crowell, Susich, Owen & Tackes
510 W. 4th St., Carson City NV 89703
(775) 882-1311