Barsell property owner sues town | SierraSun.com
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Barsell property owner sues town

JOHN A. BAYLESS

Peoria-Sunnyside LLC, owner of the 13-acre “Barsell property” at the Interstate 80/Highway 89 Interchange, has filed suit against the Town of Truckee.

The property owner alleges that the town purposefully delayed the proposed commercial project and engaged in discriminatory zoning practices for the purpose of limiting competition to the downtown commercial area.

In addition the suit seeks damages from the town for what it refers to as the effective “taking” of the property, and seeks to void the Downtown Specific Plan and its effect on the property.

The suit follows on the heels of a decision last month by the Truckee Town Council to limit development on the property to 32,000 square feet, in accordance with the recently adopted Downtown Specific Plan’s requirements. The council approved 10,000 square feet for use as restaurant space, and 22,000 square feet for mixed commercial, including a visitor center. The company initially submitted a proposal in 1994 for a retail center with 88,665 square feet of commercial space in seven separate low-rise buildings, along with a 1,200-square-foot information center.

“We have advised the council members that the suit has been filed and have forwarded a copy to the town attorney for his comment back to the town,” Town Manager Steve Wright said Monday. “We will be discussing it in closed sessions in upcoming council meetings.”

Richard Barsell is the managing member of Peoria-Sunnyside LLC, the limited liability company which owns the parcel of land on the southwest corner of the I-80/Highway 267 intersection.

The suit alleges that the Town of Truckee prevented the plaintiff from obtaining approval of its application to construct a commercial retail project on its property, and claims that the proposed project was fully consistent with the commercial zoning of the property at the time it was “deemed complete” as a matter of law in January 1995.

The lawsuit also claims that the Town of Truckee, acting through the planning staff, planning commission, the Downtown Citizens Advisory Committee and the town council, undertook a protracted series of actions designed to delay the project, which culminated in what the suit refers to as the “highly arbitrary and discriminatory

downward ‘spot zoning'” of the property as part of the town’s adoption of the Downtown Specific Plan.

According to the suit, the the Town of Truckee, acting through the planning staff, planning commission, and the Downtown Citizen’s Advisory Committee and Town Council, was “primarily motivated by and responding to intense political pressures, threats and intimidation brought to bear by an organized group of so-called ‘Downtown Merchants’. . . along with an organization known as the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation. . .”

The suit alleges that both the Downtown Merchants Association and MAPF lobbied against the project with the expressed intent of preventing possible competition with the downtown corridor.

“Originally we filed an application with the Town of Truckee for a retail project on our property in November of 1994,” Richard Barsell said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Over the last three years we have pursued every reasonable avenue for viable use of our property and we have been rebuffed at every turn. At this point the only choice we have is to take legal action.”

The company’s suit, filed by attorney Lawrence L. Hoffman of Tahoe City, calls for six actions by the court, as follows:

— A judicial determination finding that the plaintiff’s application for a conditional use permit for the Truckee Retail Center is “deemed approved” by operation of law, and an order to the Town of Truckee to permit the plaintiff to proceed to construct that project on the terms of its “deemed approved” application.

— A judicial determination that the Town of Truckee be stopped from preventing the plaintiff from having its pending application for Conditional Use Permit 94-139 now “deemed approved” as a matter of law.

— A judicial determination and damages against the Town of Truckee to pay compensation to the plaintiff for the loss of economic use of his property during the alleged delay imposed by the town.

— A judicial determination that the town’s just-adopted Downtown Specific Plan is legally inadequate as a matter of law, and must be set aside in its entirety, in that it premised upon a Final Environmental Impact Report which the suit alleges is not in compliance with the requirements of California Environmental Quality Act and legally insufficient and inadequate. It also calls for a temporary and permanent injunctive relief preventing the town from implementing the Downtown Specific Plan based on the FEIR.

— Alternatively, even if the Downtown Specific Plan and accompanying FEIR on which it is based are found to be adequate as a matter of law, the suit calls for a judicial determination that the plaintiff’s property has been improperly singled out for discriminatory and invalid “spot zoning” based on what the suit alleges were improper legislative motives which denied the plaintiff the equal protection of the law. It calls for the alleged “spot zoning” to be therefore set aside and to have no more force or effect.

–A judgment and damages to be determined at trial by jury, providing the plaintiff with Constitutionally required just compensation and damages in an amount to be determined, for what the suit claims was the “taking” of the plaintiff’s property without just compensation.


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