Trial dates consolidated to November for Penn Valley ridgeline case |

Trial dates consolidated to November for Penn Valley ridgeline case

After a lengthy pre-trial conference in Nevada County Superior Court, an August trial date in a long-running case concerning a house building permit on a Penn Valley ridgeline will now be set aside for hearing arguments regarding a number of issues of concern to the presiding judge.

The August trial was to decide liability issues in the county’s alleged “taking” of land owned by the house permit applicants, Juliet Erickson and Peter Lockyer. Judge Sean Dowling was then set to decide the issue of compensation for the Lockyers in November.

Now, both portions of the case will be heard on Nov. 17, Dowling said after a hearing Friday.

The case, which also involves a Verizon cell tower built on Nevada Irrigation District land next to the Lockyers’ property, has been ongoing in one form or another for about four years.

According to the Lockyers’ attorney, Allan Haley, Nevada County is disputing the allegation of “taking,” which was put forth last May in a ruling by Dowling.

Dowling, in two subsequent rulings, altered his opinion of the situation, finally deciding that the Nevada County deed restriction on the couple’s building permit was actually a conservation easement and thus disallowed according to county code.

Nevada County, however, has disputed the conservation easement designation and maintains that the county has the right to impose deed restrictions on the couple’s building permit.

One ruling issued by Dowling on Friday was seen as a win by the Lockyers — the right to depose Nevada County Supervisors Nate Beason and Hank Weston, albeit in a limited fashion.

The Lockyers are alleging that the “taking” was for an improper purpose, to protect the cell tower, and that there is a hidden agenda being pursued.

The county is arguing that there was no hidden agenda and that this is a “garden-variety land use restriction.”

Dowling ruled that the supervisors can be required to appear for depositions, but that their subjective motivations are off limits.

Dowling said they cannot be questioned as to their deliberative process — except in cases where privilege was waived, such as with emails already released to the Lockyers, or with comments made on the record during board meetings when the case was not the topic of discussion.

Dowling said he was concerned about a number of other issues, and asked for briefings on those issues, including ripeness — whether a case has matured into a controversy worthy of adjudication. Arguments will be heard on those matters on Aug. 25.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4229.

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