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September 17, 2014

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What if Clark County owned all those news racks on the Strip?

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Christopher DeVargas

Eddie Munoz owns and operates numerous news racks along Las Vegas Boulevard. The news racks are the subject of a proposed countywide ban. Munoz is seen Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.

Las Vegas Boulevard News Racks

Eddie Munoz owns and operates numerous news racks along Las Vegas Boulevard. The news racks are the subject of a proposed countywide ban. Munoz is seen Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Clark County could take control of hundreds of news racks along Las Vegas Boulevard in an attempt to clean up the Strip under an ordinance that will be introduced to county commissioners this week.

Commissioners will also discuss a settlement to resolve a pair of lawsuits with the Southern Nevada Health District dating back to 2011 when they meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway.

New plan for news racks

The county’s plan to clean up the Strip and improve pedestrian traffic by removing the hundreds of news racks that dot the sidewalks fell apart last year amid concerns that an outright ban would prompt a legal challenge on First Amendment grounds.

Now the county is back with a new version of the plan that would have the county take control of the racks, along with the responsibility for maintaining them.

Doing so would allow the county to standardize the look of the racks, which come in weathered shades of white, yellow and red, and give officials leeway to remove boxes from high-traffic bottlenecks.

Current private news rack operators would be first in line to obtain permits to use the county-owned boxes for continued distribution of their materials, which range from local news magazines to strip club advertisements.

Commissioners will get a first look at the proposed ordinance Tuesday, with a public hearing and vote tentatively scheduled for May 6.

Health district settlement

Two lawsuits filed by the Southern Nevada Health District against Clark County on back to back days in June 2011 could be resolved if both sides approve a proposed settlement agreement that will be presented to commissioners Tuesday.

The first lawsuit stems from the health district’s claim that the county was thwarting its attempt to acquire property for a new building to replace its outdated space on Shadow Lane, which was closed in 2012. The county contended that the health district couldn’t own property under statute, a view upheld by a District Court judge and later appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The second lawsuit involved a claim by the health district that it was shorted $15.9 million in property tax revenue, which was withheld by the county in the midst of steep budget cuts. The county eventually paid the money to the health district after the lawsuit was filed, but the district maintained it was owed an additional $3.1 million in interest payments.

The settlement up for consideration Tuesday would resolve both lawsuits simultaneously. If approved, the health district would drop its claim to the $3.1 million, while the county would drop its contention that the health district cannot own property. The decision would effectively clear the way for the health district to acquire a new building for its headquarters after several years of renting office space.

Medical marijuana vote

More than a decade after medical marijuana was first authorized by voters, Clark County is about to become the first local government in Southern Nevada to allow for dispensaries and other related businesses to open within its boundaries.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing and likely vote on proposed regulations that would govern how and where medical marijuana businesses could operate in unincorporated parts of the county.

Barring any setbacks, the new rules will likely be approved by commissioners at their Wednesday zoning commission meeting, clearing the way for prospective pot entrepreneurs to begin applying for special use permits in April.

The county has taken the lead among local governments on medical marijuana regulations and is aiming to complete its application process before the state begins its own licensing process in the summer.

Las Vegas and Henderson have both issued temporary moratoriums on applications for medical marijuana businesses, and Boulder City voted last month to ban the businesses outright.

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