Thursday, March 8, 2012 | 3:06 p.m.
Plans to build factory producing helium-filled boats didn't pan out for the business arm of the Unification Church, instead the organization led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon plans a convention center and dormitory at its location near McCarran International Airport.
With some revisions to plans, the Clark County Commission approved a use permit this week allowing the church to begin construction, which is expected to be completed by the January 2013. In January 2014, church organizers must return for a review to see how the development worked with industrial businesses nearby.
Neighboring businesses argued that the project would cause traffic problems, as large semi-trailer trucks go in and out of a relatively small entry to a parking lot between the businesses and the proposed convention center. Their concerns stemmed from statements made in August, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the Won Mo Boats manufacturing facility. The church's website said the facility would contain a marble-inlaid "Peace Palace," a "state-of-the-art training facility for education and worship."
To businesses nearby, that sounded like it was going to be a church. The traffic associated with church events, they said, would impede their ability to get trucks in and out and do business.
"I want conditions (that this) is not a house of worship," said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, whose district includes the building.
But consultant Jennifer Lazovich, of Kaempfer Crowell law firm and representing the church, promised the location would not be used as a church. Instead, the church anticipated it would be used for a variety of conventions, including those advocating world peace and women's rights.
She estimated training seminars would be held twice a month at the facility for 350 to 500 people, quarterly meetings of 250 people, twice-a-year conferences with 250 people and a few other conventions.
She said 50 temporary construction jobs will be created to demolish the building. Then 200 workers will be hired to build the $12-$14 million structure. When completed, fewer than a dozen people would work there full-time.
The church is currently paying property taxes — about $40,000 last year — and will continue to do so, Lazovich said. "We will not file for property tax exemption status as a place of worship," she said.