Proposed legislation that could halt a local housing developer’s plans to build near Red Rock Canyon could have wider implications for Las Vegas Valley landowners, according to a spokesman for the company.
Assembly Bill 277, presented by Assemblyman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, at a government affairs committee meeting March 31, would freeze changes to zoning inside Nevada’s national conservation and national recreation areas if enacted.
The legislation also would freeze zoning changes on property within a 5-mile radius of any of the state’s three national conservation areas: Red Rock Canyon on the west side of town, Sloan Canyon south of Henderson and Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon in Northern Nevada.
Despite the bill’s widespread implications across the state, Ron Krater, a consultant on Gypsum Resources and developer Jim Rhodes’ plan to raise 5,000 single-family homes on Blue Diamond Hill, which sits near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, said the move is “a massive overreaction to a single project.”
That project being Blue Diamond Hill.
If AB277 were to be enacted, the Blue Diamond Hill project, which falls in the affected area designated by the legislation, would only be allowed to construct about 1,200 homes on Rhodes’ 2,000-acre site, once home to a gypsum mine. The Blue Diamond Hill project has zoning that allows for one home every 2 acres.
But this bill goes beyond the Blue Diamond Hill project, Krater said.
“If you’re an individual landowner, developer or municipality or institution, you have lost your right to due process, going through the normal channels of local planning and zoning forever,” Krater said.
AB277’s restriction on altering established zoning on land in or near conservation areas in the state would affect residential and commercial projects proposed in the future.
David Fraser, city manager for Boulder City, spoke against the legislation at the committee meeting. The city’s plans on leasing land parcels to companies looking to raise solar energy plants south of the city could be affected by the bill’s designation on Sloan Canyon, he said.
Several groups and individuals packed the committee meeting to raise support for the bill: Save Red Rock, Friends of Sloan Canyon, the Nevada Conservation League and local business people.
“I believe that we have an obligation to protect our public lands and conservation areas so that future generations have the same opportunity to enjoy these beautiful and awe-inspiring lands that we do,” Yeager said about a bill that has bipartisan support in the state Assembly and in the Senate.
This isn’t the first time the Nevada Legislature has taken up the subject of restricting development in the state’s conservation areas. In 2003, state regulators passed the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area and Adjacent Lands Act, restricting local governments in Nevada from allowing development in or near Red Rock Canyon, specifically.
In 2013, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the legislation unconstitutional, per Nevada’s state constitution.
“The reason it was found unconstitutional is because it was written too narrowly and only applied to an area near Red Rock,” Yeager said. “It violated the constitutional requirement that laws passed by this Legislature have a general application.”
AB277 fixes this problem by expanding the land-use restrictions statewide, according to Yeager.
The committee took no action at the March 31 meeting on AB277.
The bill has until about mid-April to make it out of committee and move onto being debated and voted on in the Assembly. With 24 of the 42 members of the Assembly sponsoring or co-sponsoring AB277, the legislation would likely have enough support to pass.
A court battle is still on the horizon at the local level.
Pending litigation, originally filed by Clark County against Save Red Rock, is scheduled to be heard May 2. The county, along with Gypsum, wants the case dismissed, as it was mostly focused on a 2016 plan submitted by developers, which has since been withdrawn.
The company is now moving forward with a 2011 plan it submitted to the county at that time. Clark County commissioners approved the 2011 plan in February.
Justin Jones, legal representation for the Save Red Rock Group, plans to argue that the county violated open meeting laws during the meeting where Gypsum Resources withdrew its 2016 plan. The Save Red Rock group disputes the county’s claim that the 2011 plan hadn’t expired when it was approved.