Comstock Mining Update – April 26, 2013

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Destruction of the Landmark continues.
Destruction of the Landmark continues. Photo by Max Winthrop

The first court case arising out of the controversy over pit-mining in the Virginia City National Historic Landmark has been decided in Storey County’s favor. Curiously, the County was arguing for the other side.

In mid-April District Court Judge James Wilson heard arguments on motions in the suit. Storey County DA Bill Maddox expressed certainty in his opinion that Storey County can’t tell the mining company to stay off the state highway, and vowed the County will go to the Supreme Court if the judge rules against him.

On Wednesday April 24 the Judge ruled against him. “The court concludes that Storey County had authority to impose no-use-of-the-highway condition,” he wrote. “CRA is granted a declaratory judgment on its first cause of action. Storey County had the authority to impose the no-use-of-the-highway condition. CMI and Storey’s cross-motion for summary judgment are denied.”

He ruled further that Storey County manager hadn’t acted illegally in personally canceling Condition 5, and that the County had considered other factors beyond DA Maddox’s flawed advice and couldn’t be held to have acted “contrary to law”.

No doubt Mr Maddox is busy preparing his appeal, but whether the county can afford to pursue it isn’t known yet. CRA is also considering an appeal. “We think the record shows the Commissioners and county employees relied completely on his mistaken advice,” said Robin Cobbey, CRA Board Chairman. “What does it matter if other factors were discussed if they believed they lacked the authority to impose restrictions? The record shows they cited Mr. Maddox’s opinion in casting ther votes.”

CRA’s purpose in filing the suit was to force Storey County to exercise its proper authority over land use, and it has succeeded. The Commissioners might still bow to the company’s wishes as they have done in the past — they probably will — but now they can’t dodge responsibility for doing it.

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