Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2018

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NLV council denies NevStar project

The North Las Vegas City Council was "arbitrary and capricious" when it denied a special-use permit for the NevStar 2000 hotel-casino project in October, according to the developer's attorney.

Going against the recommendation of the Planning Commission and city staff, the council voted 3-1, with Councilwoman Paula Brown abstaining, to deny the proposed entertainment complex at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Coralie Avenue after about 50 residents, the majority of whom were opposed to the project, spoke out. Councilwoman Stephanie Smith cast the lone vote for the project's approval.

But NevStar Gaming and Entertainment Corp. isn't taking the council's denial as the final word.

Mel Close, an attorney for NevStar, said the company has filed a lawsuit in District Court asking for a reversal of the council's decision.

"We feel it was an improper denial and that we met all the conditions of the North Las Vegas Planning Commission," said Close, who added the company's property lies in a gaming overlay with commercial zoning. "They (company) considered the denial to be unfair, and they are entitled to a special-use permit."

The city, on the other hand, has the right to deny a special-use permit despite the property's zoning, according to its attorney for the case, Chuck Deaner.

"The mere fact it is zoned for it (hotel-casino), doesn't mean they (NevStar) are entitled to a use permit," he said, adding the purpose of use permits is to control activity within certain zoning.

Deaner denied that the council was arbitrary in its vote, saying that even the Legislature does not support neighborhood gaming.

The NevStar project is the fourth casino proposal recently denied by city officials. There has been a rush to have projects approved before Dec. 31, when state Senate Bill 208, passed by the 1997 Legislature, goes into effect, putting tough new requirements on proposed neighborhood casinos.

"The fact that they have a window to apply doesn't mean they are entitled to it," Deaner said. "Our position is that the mere fact the master plan allows it doesn't mean the city has approve it."

The city is already in the process of changing the master plan to prohibit casinos in that area because of the new legislation.

District Judge Gene Porter ruled Friday that NevStar's application would be good pending his decision.

"By having it under submission, it will protect them," Deaner said.

Deaner said the city filed its rebuttal Tuesday, which will be followed by a rebuttal from NevStar. "They have a chance to rebut because they have the burden of proof," he said.

The case is scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. Jan. 19.

Michael Signorelli, NevStar's chairman and chief executive officer, wants to build the $140 million project about 800 feet south of the intersection of Martin Luther King and Craig Road by 2000. The 35-acre complex would include a 200-suite hotel, a 37,000-square-foot casino, a bowling center, a 12-screen movie theatre, an arcade, retail shops, restaurants and meeting rooms.

Residents said they were concerned about increased traffic and crime as well as a drop in property values. Their main objection, however, was to having a casino and its possible future expansion so close to their homes.

A number of residents at the meeting said they would like to see the project built, just not in their neighborhood. Signorelli, however, said at the time if he could not build at that site, he would not build the project in North Las Vegas.

Close said the project would provide 1,200 new jobs and bring the city roughly $1 million a year in revenue, or enough to pay for 10 additional police officers. NevStar owns the Mesquite Star hotel-casino in Mesquite.

Close said that based on legal precedent, he thinks the company's chances for overturning the decision are good.

Mayor Mike Montandon, who lives near the area where NevStar 2000 was to be built, has made no secret of the fact that he did not support the project or any other proposal for a neighborhood casino. He could not be reached for comment about the project Tuesday.

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