Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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Looking in on: City Hall:

Plan to build in Las Vegas? City won’t hold its breath

Not so long ago the sellers of high-rise concepts and the possible tax windfalls that came with them were welcomed by the Las Vegas City Council and mayor with sincere thank-yous and pledges of city support.

These days, super-duper condo projects practically elicit rolled eyes and a simple question: “Where’s the money?”

There was more than a hint of disbelief in the mayor’s comments Wednesday when Gateway Las Vegas LLC requested a special-use permit to build a 41-story mixed-use development at 401 E. Charleston Blvd., across from the AM/PM gas station on Fourth Street.

The structure looked New York-urban on paper. Mayor Oscar Goodman wanted to know one thing, though.

“You really have the money to build this project?” he said.

“We’re working on it,” a company representative from Washington replied.

“Uh-oh,” Goodman said. “Tough, tough, tough, tough times.”

“Well,” the representative answered, “thank you for the recommendation.”

“I’m just telling you as a matter of practicality, because I don’t want people to get excited about a project based on the money market as it is today,” Goodman said.

Earlier in the meeting money issues caused REI Neon/Warburg Pincus, the wannabe developer of a downtown arena, to ask for and receive another extension of a development agreement with the city. The developer has a $200 million gap for the first phase of its $10.5 billion project.

Behind the scenes some city employees and planners question REI Neon’s chances of building the arena. More hope comes, some said, from the fact that the company is partnering with The Cordish Co., a massive developer that might be able to actually get something going — with or without REI Neon.

But back to Gateway. Goodman looked at Councilman Gary Reese and recalled how Reese is “still waiting” for a check to the city from the would-be developer of yet another high-rise project, one of dozens that have never broken ground in downtown Las Vegas.

“I checked on it, and I was told it would be in the mail, and we called day after day,” Goodman said, starting to laugh.

“It was coming from Salt Lake City, though,” Reese said, giggling.

“We called this morning, and it’s been somehow waylaid in the Treasury Department,” the mayor said, unable to contain himself.

Then he turned to the Gateway reps. “But do the best you can, of course.”

•••

Get ready for a battle in the northwest valley, where scores of civic-minded residents are starting to collect signatures to halt construction of a freeway.

Called the Sheep Mountain Parkway, the 5-mile stretch of road would be a 6-mile link connecting Interstate 215, U.S. 95 and Fort Apache Road.

Residents are concerned not just that the highway will encourage even more housing developments, spawning the traffic and other problems associated with growth.

They also are troubled about the road going through the home of one of the country’s most significant prehistoric fossil finds. The collection in the Upper Las Vegas Wash is considered rare for its size and breadth in terms of period. The fossils are plentiful even at the surface; in one place the rib cage of a woolly mammoth juts from the desert.

The fossils are in about 12,000 square acres of desert just below Sheep Mountain. This year the Bureau of Land Management will choose one of six proposals for development in the area. The city wants the BLM to choose the plan that preserves the fewest acres, while residents want to preserve the most acres.

Councilman Steve Ross, whose district includes the proposed freeway, said the highway has been considered for years for the simple reason that the city’s growth will one day demand it.

“Keep in mind, there was great opposition to the current ... beltway around the valley,” Ross said. “I remember all the naysayers who said nobody would use it. Now look at it. Likewise with the Sheep Mountain Parkway. Not that we have the money to build it today or in 10 years, but we need that to be set aside for when the time comes.”

Las Vegas, the Nevada Transportation Department, the Regional Transportation Commission and federal authorities have initiated an environmental impact statement on the road.

Meetings to discuss the project will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. April 23 and April 29 at Centennial Hills Community Center, 6601 N. Buffalo Drive.

•••

Fingerprinting and background checks on the roughly 10,500 people who apply for work cards in Clark County annually is a lucrative business for Metro Police.

In fiscal year 2006-07 the department took in nearly $1.9 million for the work cards. For fiscal 2007-08 to date, the department has received $1.14 million.

The Sun reported last week that Bartenders Local 165, representing 3,300 mostly casino bartenders, is going to challenge laws that require bartenders to obtain a work card, also known as a sheriff’s card. Bartenders not only pay $45 to the county for a card, but also pay $90 to the state Gaming Control Board — $75 for a background check and $15 for fingerprinting — to do essentially the same search.

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