Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2017

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Answers: Clark County:

Change in law would end peddling along Strip’s sidewalks

You know all those water peddlers, considered part of the growing Strip chaos that government and casino officials are trying to fix?

They might be going bye-bye.

Why’s that?

The first change in laws governing activities on the Strip — a committee came up with ideas after meeting several months to discuss Strip problems — will be introduced Tuesday at the County Commission meeting. The change is a simple one: It bans peddling on the public right-of-way, which includes sidewalks.

What if someone sits there with bottles of water, or stands in the hot sun wearing a Spongebob outfit, but only asks for “donations” for water or to take a picture with the sponge? Does that get them around the definition of “peddling?"

Most costumed entertainers already do that: People take pictures with them then give donations. The question is, would a water peddler do it? We think people would see a “donations” sign, take a water and just walk away.

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Handbillers outside the Flamingo just north of Flamingo Road on the Strip pass out cards for an escort service in May 2010.

This won’t end Strip issues. The bigger matter are the card-slappers, those guys who slap card-sized advertisements of near-naked women at passing tourists. Protected by First Amendment free-speech rights, they can’t be driven away.

Will the law address them?

Probably not until a three-month traffic study is completed.

Commissioners agreed in April to spend $581,000 to study pedestrian traffic, something that hadn’t been done in some 20 years. The study will help find bottlenecks — sometimes created by the slappers — that have been known to force pedestrians to walk in the street.

If that’s found to be the case, some slappers could be identified as safety hazards, which might lead to ordinances that cause them to be more spread out on the Strip.

•••

A Las Vegas report on the city’s 4-year-old short-term residential rental ordinance — the so-called “party house” law — is to be discussed Wednesday during the City Council meeting. Thirty cases resulting in 298 inspections by the Code Enforcement Division have taken place since the ordinance’s adoption, the report says.

What does the ordinance regulate?

It is supposed to keep a lid on noise and other licensing or zoning code violations that can result from the short-term rental of homes throughout the city.

What problems did they find over four years?

The report says the most frequent complaint has been “noise and disruption issues, unlicensed properties and on-street parking issues.” Total licensing fees collected over the four years is $16,700. Currently, 37 valid licenses are in effect on short-term rentals; 18 of those are in single-family zoning districts; 19 are in multifamily or commercial districts.

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The first real test of the county's "party house" ordinance, approved in 2010 to curb short-term house rentals, resulted in a $29,000 penalty for a homeowner in the tony Spanish Palms neighborhood.

Any suggestions in the report?

After talking about how other communities around the country deal with short-term rentals — by the way, Clark County and North Las Vegas don’t allow short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods; Henderson allows them only at Lake Las Vegas — three options are outlined:

• Change nothing.

• Eliminate the ordinance and no longer permit short-term rentals.

• Adopt additional licensing standards such as occupancy limits, vehicle limits, additional noise restrictions and a revocation procedure.

Will anything get changed?

That’s a good possibility, given that Councilman Bob Beers says the city continues to have problems and receive neighbor complaints about partying that’s disrespectful of neighbors.

Complaints emerge largely on weekends, he added, when city staff isn’t working.

•••

Expect a larger crowd than usual at Thursday’s meeting of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, as small businesses throughout the valley keep registering shock at their new water bills.

Water customers in May started getting bills with new fees for the fire lines that go into most businesses. Of some $100 million in debt payments the Water Authority needs to make annually, those fire line fees account for about $30 million. Previously, businesses paid nothing for those lines. Now some have seen their bills increase 300 percent because of the added fire-line fee.

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Jim Meservey, a principal of Storage One, points to the total of his current monthly water bills after surcharges Wednesday, May 30, 2012. The figure at left was the total bill for the prior month without the surcharge. Although the business is a low water consumer, the company has seen its water bills double or triple depending on the size of the water meters. In 2016, the surcharges are scheduled to double, he said.

Can’t anything be done now about those bills?

SNWA is putting together a committee to examine the issue and come up with suggestions. But those suggestions wouldn’t likely be put in place until the current round of fee increases end in three years.

Business leaders are meeting and strategizing and will argue that dozens if not hundreds of small businesses will close if something isn't done sooner.

What was the justification for the fees in the first place?

For many years, the Water Authority relied upon connection fees to new homes and businesses to fund most of its operations. That revenue peaked at around $188 million in 2005-06. Then the economy dried up and the connection fees fell to about $11 million last year.

Meanwhile, though, the Water Authority has some $3.3 billion in debt, about $800 million of that due to the third pipeline being constructed 650 feet underground and jutting into Lake Mead. The pipeline is built deeper than two others and is considered insurance against the possibility that an enduring drought lowers the lake below the level of the other two pipelines.

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