Originally published by Michael Scott Davidson, Las Vegas Review Journal
October 23, 2016 – 10:09 pm
Opponents of a plan to build thousands of homes atop Blue Diamond Hill have renewed hope that the Clark County Commission will block the proposed development at its Dec. 7 meeting.
That’s because last week the county Planning Commission unanimously voted against a concept plan calling for 5,025 homes to be built on 2,010 acres next to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
“We were surprised,” said Heather Fisher, whose organization Save Red Rock brought close to 100 protesters to the Planning Commission meeting.
“After hearing all the testimony, we thought it would be approved anyway because it has been in the past, so everyone was thrilled when it was denied.”
The recommendation is for county commissioners, who will consider the concept plan that was put forth by mining company and land owner Gypsum Resources.
A similar concept plan was approved by the County Commission in 2011, but the approval expired while the company and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management discussed a potential land swap. The idea was to swap the Blue Diamond Hill property for equally valuable land for development in a less controversial area. The talks fell through.
Ron Krater, spokesman for the proposed development, said Gypsum Resources remains optimistic about getting approval from most county commissioners. He noted that county staff has recommended the concept plan for approval.
“Between now and Dec. 7 we’re going to reaffirm that the major issues with this project have been answered and have been put into the concept plan,” he said.
The company should expect staunch opposition from County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who urged the Planning Commission Tuesday to reject the concept plan. Giunchigliani and Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who is running for re-election, voted against the concept plan in 2011.
The proposal to develop Blue Diamond Hill has been mired in controversy for more than a decade largely in part due to the hill’s remote location near Red Rock. The area has more than 2 million visitors annually and is a popular destination for hiking, rock climbing, cycling, horseback riding and sightseeing.
Opponents say the development would damage the local ecosystem, mar a historic scenic view and overburden local roads including state Route 159. The proposed village would sit more than 4,000 feet above sea level and offer views of both the conservation area and the Las Vegas Valley.
After more than two hours of public comment, Planning Commission Chairman Dan Shaw moved not to recommend the concept plan.
“I don’t think this concept plan complies with our comprehensive plan that we have developed for this county,” he said, noting that he believed some sort of development would eventually come to the area.
Developer Jim Rhodes, an administrative trustee of Gypsum Resources, previously sued the county and state after the Nevada Legislature and Clark County Commission passed laws in 2003 prohibiting high-density zoning on Blue Diamond Hill.
The Nevada Supreme Court struck down the state law in 2013.
Clark County settled with Rhodes in 2010, allowing Gypsum Resources to apply for higher-density housing. As part of the agreement, the county retained the right to reject any proposals.
Krater said he could neither confirm nor deny whether the company or its members were considering legal action against the county if the concept plan is denied by the County Commission.
“There has not been any discussions that I’m aware of regarding that subject,” he said. “We remain confident that we can resolve any outstanding issues through the (county’s) major projects process.”