Las Vegas Sun

March 20, 2019

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Station wins right to develop casino at controversial site

Memories of a past struggle weighed heavily on the decision to allow a neighborhood casino into North Las Vegas near residential areas.

Residents and planning commissioners Wednesday appeared to be still licking their wounds from the battle of more than a year ago when NevStar Gaming Entertainment Corp. first approached the city about building the NevStar 2000 casino near the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Craig Road.

Although the NevStar plan fell through and Station Casinos Inc. has since revamped the site plans, several of the commissioners and residents said even with the changes their feelings from a year ago are still the same -- North Las Vegas doesn't need a neighborhood casino in a residential area.

By a slim margin, 4-3, the planning commissioners Wednesday opened the door for Station to build Craig Ranch Station, a Mediterranean-themed hotel-casino on Martin Luther King just south of Craig Road.

When considering his vote, Commissioner Nelson Stone recalled the litigation in which the city became entangled with NevStar. When the city tried to nix NevStar's plans, it was forced to grant the special-use permit after a District Court judge ruled the council's decision was "arbitrary and capricious." With Wednesday's action Station was granted a one-year extension of the license to complete construction and amend the original NevStar plans. The license is now set to expire in February 2001.

During the hour-long discussion with Station representative Tom Skancke, commissioners were told of the changes to the original plans proposed by NevStar in 1998. The plans fell through when NevStar ran into financial difficulties and declared bankruptcy in December.

Planning Commissioner Anita Wood had specific concerns that the casino would be nearly twice the size of the original plans for NevStar.

"When this was first presented, this had about 10 percent casino and was largely a hotel," she said. "Now with 30 percent casino, that is considerably higher than what we started with. I can't blame the people in this audience for being concerned."

Last year residents came out in droves to oppose the casino's location, telling the council they were concerned about increased traffic and crime as well as a drop in property values.

Bonnie and Denise Kelley, who live 6 miles from the proposed site, came out to oppose the project Wednesday with similar concerns.

"I am totally against it," Bonnie said breaking into tears at the dais. "We have school kids crossing Martin Luther King, and we don't need more drunks on the street because they go to the casino."

Denise agreed: "I like Station Casinos, but that's too close to residential, especially when they're talking about expanding."

City staff reports say the property would feature a 69,000-square-foot casino, a five-story, 200-room hotel, 10 movie theaters and more. The project would sit on nearly 34 acres now owned by Desert Mesa Land Partners Ltd.

Future expansion of approximately 138,500 square feet of gaming, restaurants, retail, meeting and entertainment space is shown in the staff reports.

Planning Commissioner Christopher Montanez, too, had problems with the location.

"I think it's great that Station Casinos want to go on with this project, but why not do it farther down Craig Road instead of across from a residential neighborhood?" he said.

The site is zoned for commercial with a gaming overlay district.

Skancke said Station is a reputable locals casino operator that will bring employment and a higher tax base to the city.

"I believe our reputation has demonstrated to you that we know what we're doing," he said.

Staff reports say the project is expected to employ approximately 850 people and generate in excess of $6 million in direct taxes annually with an additional $5 million in additional federal taxes.

Skancke told the council that he believed North Las Vegas residents would be given the first chance at employment opportunities.