Las Vegas Sun

August 25, 2019

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Judge reverses NLV City Council’s denial of new casino

A hotel-casino and entertainment complex is back on track to be built in a North Las Vegas residential area despite the desires of the North Las Vegas City Council to restrict such development.

District Judge Gene Porter on Tuesday ruled 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.

After a 30-day period in which the city could decide to appeal, NevStar will move ahead with architectural drawing and will talk to investment bankers about restructuring financing for the project, Michael J. Signorelli, chairman and chief executive officer, said today.

The $140 million proposed project at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Coralie Avenue had the blessing of North Las Vegas staff members and the Planning Commission, but the City Council voted it down despite the fact that the area lies in the city's resort development zone.

Plans call for a 200-suite hotel, a 37,000-square-foot casino, a bowling center, a 12-screen movie theater, an arcade, retail shops, restaurants and meeting rooms.

Mayor Michael Montandon said this morning he is "disappointed, obviously" with the decision.

His next step?

"The next step is probably to let them build the casino," he said.

Montandon said there would be no appeal to the decision.

In earlier comments, Montandon had argued that a special-use permit is not an entitlement.

The city's attorney, Susan Scann, said that is a decision for the City Council and argued that the city has the right to deny a use permit despite the property's zoning.

"We can take away a special-use permit even after the building is built," Montadon said after the lawsuit was filed last year.

The City Council had a change of heart about neighborhood casinos since the original zoning, Scann said, and decided there were "good reasons" to reject the NevStar project.

Montandon, who lives near the NevStar site, has made no secret of the fact he does not support the project or any other proposal for neighborhood casinos.

But NevStar attorney Mel Close argued in court that North Las Vegas had not changed its master plan and NevStar was in compliance with the master plan "100 percent."

Porter sympathized with the city because the area was relatively undeveloped when the master plan was adopted in 1989. But since then, homes have been built, and a high school is now less than a mile away from the proposed hotel-casino.

But in the end, the judge agreed with Close that NevStar was entitled to rely on the master plan and the city was wrong in denying the use permit.

Even if everything goes as planned, Close indicated it would be about four years before the project would open because of financing and design requirements.

The City Council voted down the project after about 50 residents at the October council meeting protested its construction. They cited increased traffic and crime as well as a drop in property values and possible future expansion of the casino as their main concerns.