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Referendum falls short of necessary signatures

Erich Sommer

A referendum petition that would have forced the town to reconsider its approval of the Old Greenwood resort came up fewer than 50 signatures short of the minimum requirement.

“I knew it was going to be really close,” said a disappointed Beth Ingalls after getting the news from Town Clerk Patt Osborne on Tuesday.

Ingalls is one of the organizers of Truckee SOS (Save Open Space), the group that led the petition drive.

“The main reason we didn’t make it … is that people think they are registered at the right address, but they are not. You have to re-register every time you move,” she said.

Not surprisingly, Roger Lessman, managing partner of East West Partners, the project developer, was more upbeat.

“Obviously, we are pleased with the outcome,” he said. “While this is an indication that this is in the forefront of some people’s mind, we think it’s not a major issue with the town in its entirety.”

The referendum petition would have required that the Town Council rescind or put to a vote two ordinances that are central to the resort development’s approval.

One ordinance approved the development agreement between the town and East West and a second ordinance that rezoned more than 300 acres on the southern end of the proposed 871-acre Old Greenwood resort.

The council unanimously approved both of those ordinances and the project itself in June.

According to Town Manager Stephen L. Wright, the group needed 738 signatures for both ordinances, but received 696 for the rezone ordinance and 690 for the development agreement.

Truckee S.O.S. managed to collect 1,001 signatures on one petition and 982 on the other within a two-week period.

The town contracted with the county to verify which signatures were of registered voters within Truckee.

Ingalls sat down with the Town Cler Wednesday to review the signatures and figure out why some were ruled invalid.

If in fact the count stands, Jim Porter, who represents East West Partners, the project developer, said he would be happy for two reasons.

“If it turns out there are not enough signatures, I will be pleased for East West, but also pleased the town will not undergo a divisive election, which is never good for a community,” Porter said in a prepared statement. ” I encourage residents to get involved in land use planning, but ‘ballot box planning’ is pooh -poohed by all the experts and is not the way to go.”

According to Wright, it is unlikely that the petition will have enough signatures even after the review process.

Before the counting process even began, the petition ran into another roadblock.

The petitioner is required to sign every page of signatures, but this was omitted.

After the town accepted the referendum petition on July 26, a clerk in the Nevada County Elections Department discovered the possible omission on July 29.

Town Attorney Dennis Crabb solicited arguments for and against the format of the petition from the legal teams of both East West Partners and Truckee SOS.

At Thursday night’s town council meeting, Crabb announced his decision: The petitions were ruled valid, despite the omission.

“We’re talking about philosophy now instead of law,” Crabb said.

The philosophy of the referendum, he said, is that it is the right of the citizens and it should only be superceded if the referendum is against the law or if it deceives the voters in any way.

While the petition appears to have fallen just short, there is still a lawsuit filed by the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation contesting the project’s approval by the town.

“There is still a lawsuit filed by MAPF, and we are considering our options in light of that,” Lessman said. “We expect to make a decision early next week.”

The suit challenges the adequacy of the town’s general plan and its compliance with state planning and zoning laws.

It also claims the town’s approval of Old Greenwood violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

In a related event, the town has scheduled a public workshop on East West’s other proposed development, Gray’s Crossing, this Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.


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