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April 20, 2019

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Station delays hearing on Summerlin tower

Opposition to a planned 300-foot-tall hotel tower in Summerlin prompted Station Casinos on Wednesday to take the issue off tonight's agenda of the county Planning Commission.

Station Casinos instead will meet with neighbors in an effort to resolve issues surrounding the planned casino, to be built on 68 acres at Town Center Drive and Charleston Boulevard. Station Vice President Lesley Pittman said the casino has been planned for more than a decade at the site, but the concerns about the building's height prompted the move.

"What we intend to do is put together a meeting where we can reach out to the Summerlin residents, listen to their concerns," Pittman said. "We want to be a good neighbor."

Neighborhood casinos by county statute are capped at 100 feet tall and nine stories. Station Casinos applied for a permit from the county to triple the height of the new casino's main tower, about as tall as the Sahara Hotel. A second tower would be 200 feet tall.

The issue was to be heard tonight by the Clark County Planning Commission, an advisory board to the Clark County Commission. The County Commission would have heard the issue and could have permitted the casino Oct. 22.

Instead, Greg Borgel, a land-use consultant working for Station Casinos on the project, said the issue tentatively will be on the Oct. 23 Planning Commission agenda, and could be heard by the County Commission for a final decision Nov. 5.

Pittman said opposition to the casino caught Station "a little by surprise," in part because a 250-foot tall building is already permitted on Howard Hughes Corp. property across the street from the casino site.

Borgel said permission for a 250-foot across the street was part of the original county approval of the master-planning agreement for Summerlin South, which according to county records came in 1995.

He said most of the opposition does not appear to be coming from residents near the proposed casino.

"We are not aware of any adjacent neighbors who have any great concerns, but we're willing to meet with people," Borgel said.

Some of the opponents to the casino height were active in a successful effort earlier this year to derail construction of thousands of homes adjacent to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Pauline van Betten is a veteran of that fight and a resident of Blue Diamond, a village nestled in the Spring Mountains near Red Rock. Although she would not be affected at her home by the casino height, she is concerned about the visual impact the casino would have on people looking west to Red Rock from the urban area.

"When the precedent was set for neighborhood casinos to be 100 feet, it was because of the impact heights over that would have on neighbors," she said. "It sets a bad precedent."

Van Betten, who has become active in the growing opposition to the height of the planned casino, said many of the neighbors were unaware how high it would go.

"I'm concerned about the notification process," she said. "I don't believe the disclosures for the neighborhood was for towers of this height."

"A high, narrow profile or a low, sprawling profile -- let the neighbors decide," van Betten said. "These choices may be legitimate but it needs to go before the people who will be impacted."

Van Betten said Station Casinos made the right decision to have neighborhood meetings on the issue.

"I really do applaud their decision to have more dialogue."

Van Betten, a real-estate agent, said residents knew a casino was planned for the area for more than a decade, but the disclosure did not include the proposed height of the project.

Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, a community activist, agreed. "You can't tell me that 300-foot towers in our suburbs are appropriate," she said.

The issue is bigger than just Summerlin, said Mayo-DeRiso, who is a member of the board of nonprofit group Scenic Nevada.

"There's a lot of people who care about this," she said. "It's like taking a picture of Red Rock with somebody's index finger in the frame."

Mayo-DeRiso was an activist in the successful 1999 fight against a proposed neighborhood casino in Spring Valley. This situation is not the same, she said, because the casino was always planned for the current site.

Pittman said Station Casinos and the company's planners would likely meet with neighbors within the next several weeks. She said the company wants to maximize the use of the site, and current plans include a 90,000-square-foot casino, 1,500 rooms, a movie theater and other typical casino amenities.

The height, however, should not have an extraordinary impact on neighbors, she said.

"We want to have unprecedented views of the skyline and the Strip, but we also want to minimize the impact on people in that area," Pittman said. "If we lowered it, spread it out more, it would impact more people in the area."

She said the towers would not obscure the sight lines for most nearby residents to the Red Rock area west of the planned site.