Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009 | 1:09 p.m.
Way out in Henderson's east foothills, there's a sprawling development of million-dollar homes, complete with pools, tennis courts and house lots large enough to keep horses.
A similar development elsewhere in the valley might have gates and a contrived name in another language, but residents of this rural neighborhood are happy to refer to it by the simple name Henderson placed on it when it became part of the city: Section 4.
It's a reflection of why they paid a premium for their homes — to live in a rural neighborhood, where pesky city accoutrements like street lights, sidewalks, curbs and tiny lots would be left far behind.
Now, residents say that lifestyle is threatened by a proposed transmission line that NV Energy hopes to build through the heart of their neighborhood. The proposed line would replace a three-line route that has stood since the 1930s — long before Section 4 or Henderson existed — with a major transmission system that would have up to 20 lines.
Residents say they have become accustomed to having to actively protect their lifestyle.
"We have to keep an eye on that because we're prime property for developers," said Nancy Myers, secretary-treasurer of the Section 4 Advisory Committee.
At a Jan. 29 Planning Commission meeting, residents and NV Energy pleaded their respective cases. After hearing both sides, commissioners asked the utility company to evaluate alternate routes and report back Feb. 26.
NV Energy is by no means an unfamiliar opponent to Section 4 residents. In 1996, the residents protested and blocked another proposed transmission line that would have run a different route through the community.
Resident Bill Wilson said he paid a steep price for his home in 1983, back when he and his wife were one of just three families in the area. The proposed transmission line would run right above his backyard, and one of its 116-foot poles would be across the street, interfering with his sweeping view of the Las Vegas Valley.
Wilson knows that Henderson doesn't have an ordinance protecting his view, but with the residents' other concerns — noise, electromagnetic radiation and the impact on property values — he said he thinks residents have a valid case for blocking the proposed line.
Wilson said he is particularly worried about the empty lot that he just spent tens of thousands of dollars to subdivide from his property. He and his wife had set that land apart to fund their retirement, but they are afraid that the proposed line would decrease the lot's property value enough to put the plan in jeopardy.
"I'm looking at a loss of between four and eight years' worth of work," Wilson said. "Now you go to work five days a week, 40 hours a week for eight years, and NV Energy wants to come and take that away from me. I think I have a legitimate complaint."
Residents said they weren't adequately notified of the plan. NV Energy sent out a small postcard notification in November, at the height of the election season, Myers said. It looked like a political ad, she said, and even when closely examined, provided little information about what was being proposed or how it would affect residents.
Though the Section 4 Advisory Committee was able to meet with NV Energy representatives about the project, they said what the utility told them and what it told the Planning Commission were separate stories. Residents said they were told there would be 12 to 14 lines on the route; at Planning Commission, the number was 20.
They also accuse NV Energy of being disingenuous about the effect of electromagnetic radiation and the possibility of alternate routes.
"(NV Energy) wasn't truthful with us when they talked to us," Section 4 Advisory Committee President Franklin Morehead said.
Representatives for NV Energy could not be immediately reached for comment, however, at the Planning Commission hearing, NV Energy Senior Land Use Consultant Thomas Dombrowski said the company held three public hearings on the project since 2006 and sent out more than 3,000 public notifications each time.
Only one of those meetings had anyone attend, he said, and it only drew about 10 residents.
"We've worked with property owners and the public for quite some time," he said.
The transmission line will eventually be needed to serve Southern Nevada's growing population, Dombrowski said, and NV Energy chose the route through Section 4 because it already has the easement and won't have to pay for additional land.
The other route the Planning Commission asked the company to evaluate — which runs through an undeveloped area in the foothills beyond Henderson's northern border, alongside another proposed transmission line — would likely raise rates, Dombrowski said, because it would require NV Energy to acquire more land.
"It is our policy to maximize the use of existing corridors," he said. "This goes back to our overall goal of providing the most cost-efficient service possible."
The Henderson Planning Commission is expected to vote on NV Energy's request Feb. 26.
Jeremy Twitchell can be reached at 990-8928 or [email protected].