Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2003 | 11:08 a.m.
After looking at pictures and drawings of the proposed Red Rock Station casino Tuesday night, Susan Braun said she could easily imagine looking out her back door and "seeing this monstrosity."
But her neighbor Brian Roberts said it's silly to think that just one 300-foot-tall building would ruin a view that fills a horizon. Besides, maybe once the new hotel is built the office buildings planned for the adjacent property will follow, and he'll be able to ride his bike to work.
They were among the mixed reactions to Station Casinos' proposal to build a new hotel with one 300-foot tower of 1,000 rooms and two 200-foot-tall towers of 250 rooms each on vacant land at the intersection of the Las Vegas Beltway and Charleston Boulevard.
Station conducted a community meeting at D'Vorre and Hal Ober Elementary School to try to win more public support for the project. Attendees examined a series of photos, drawings and maps. Station's representatives answered questions.
There appeared to be more opponents than supporters at the meeting, but a true count was difficult because hundreds of people wandered in and out of the meeting. Many said they were concerned about the height, 300 feet, of one of the proposed towers, and dozens wore stickers that said, "Don't Bring the Strip to Red Rock."
The casino would be a little more than five miles from Red Rock National Conservation Area's visitors center, and would not be visible from there, casino officials said.
Roberts, 29, a self-employed marketing professional, said some people got mad at him for supporting the project.
The Clark County Planning Commission has the proposal on the agenda for Thursday on whether to recommend the project to the commissioners. The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the project on Nov. 19.
The commissioners are also scheduled to vote tonight on several issues related to the project that would not affect the height of the buildings. The items to be voted on tonight are technicalities, such as getting permission to have separate entrances for the movie theaters, Gregory Borgel, a land-use consultant working for Station Casinos, said.
Without commissioners' approval, buildings on the casino site are limited to 100-feet, and some opponents said the company should learn to live with that restriction.
"Station should learn to play by the rules, which allow a 100-foot casino," said Glen Arnodo, political director for the Culinary Workers Union, which is fighting the proposed casino.
"It's a bad idea to put a Strip-sized casino in a neighborhood, especially next to Red Rock Canyon," Arnodo said.
The union, working with the Sierra Club, mailed 16,000 color pamphlets to area residents and produced the anti-casino stickers that were handed out Tuesday night. Arnodo said the union is interested because Red Rock is a natural treasure that needs to be protected.
But Station Casinos Vice President of Corporate and Government Relations Lesley Pittman said the union management has ulterior motives for fighting the project: Station Casinos are non-union shops; its employees don't belong to the union.
Arnodo said that's not the reason for the union's involvement in the Red Rock dispute, however. He said the company is raising that issue in an attempt to draw attention away from the neighbors' valid reasons for opposing towers of more than 100 feet.
Ralph Mordo, 67, who retired to the Summerlin neighborhood about six years ago, echoed Arnado's complaint that the casino company should be forced to abide by the rules of developing the property.
"When they purchased the property they knew there were certain restrictions," Mordo said. "It's a matter of principle. And 300 feet is an eyesore."
In May Station Casinos paid the Howard Hughes Corp. $70 million for the 67-acre casino site.
Braun, 60, who works with satellite imaging technology, said a 300-foot-tall building would definitely hurt neighbors' views of the ridges around Red Rock Canyon.
The development will also lead to more traffic for the area, she said.
But company representatives say the proposed casino fits in with the plan for the area, which is proposed to become a mini-downtown called Summerlin Centre, that will include office buildings, shopping and the casino.
In 1999 the commissioners approved a development plan that allows for 250-foot office buildings on land next to the proposed casino site. The proposed 300-foot hotel tower would give only the very top floor of the 24-floor hotel an unobstructed view of the Strip, Pittman said.
For those looking toward Red Rock Canyon, the building would usually either be hidden by other buildings or take up only a small piece of the skyline, according to company photos and representatives.
Roberts said: "We're talking about one building, not the New York City skyline."
Coming from Red Rock Canyon, the 300-foot tower wouldn't be visible until about 1.5 miles from the proposed casino, Pittman said. The company had a helicopter hover 300-feet above the property a week ago to test how visible the top of the building would be, she said.
The casino would be a little over 5 miles from the visitor center in Red Rock. Some development, farther north of the proposed casino site, is visible from just a few hundred yards toward the valley from the entrance to the visitor center.
Pittman said if all goes well with the commissioners, construction on the new casino could begin in the middle of next year, and the new casino could open by mid-2005.
Pittman said the company does not have a back-up plan for developing the property if the commissioners don't approve their request.
"We think we need that height to be successful," Pittman said. As the last of the neighbors left the meeting 90 minutes after it began, Pittman said it was too early to say whether any public protest could lead company officials to change their plans for the property.
But others were hopeful for a compromise that would leave the area with a shorter hotel tower.
Neighbor Ron Clair, 75, said he thinks Station Casinos really only wants a 200-foot or 250-foot tower, and is asking for a 300-foot tower to trick the public into thinking they forced a compromise.
"It's a snow job," Clair said.