Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2018

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Judge allows Save Red Rock group’s lawsuit against county to move forward

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Steve Marcus

Since 2002, developers have tried to persuade Clark County to change the zoning on an old gypsum mine site about 5 miles from the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, in the interest of building a higher-density residential project there.

A nonprofit group received the OK to move forward with its lawsuit against Clark County designed to squash plans to build thousands of home outside of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

District Judge Jerry Wiese on Thursday denied Clark County’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, in which the nonprofit Save Red Rock alleges the county broke open meeting laws during a February meeting related to the proposed 5,000-home development.

The lawsuit also questions the validity of a concept plan approved by Clark County commissioners in 2011. Save Red Rock believes the plan expired. Clark County and Gypsum Resources, which owns the land and is working with builder Jim Rhodes on the proposed residential community, believe the plan did not expire and allows them to move forward with their development plans.

Wiese heard arguments from both sides at a hearing on Aug. 17. Rather than rule from the bench that day, he opted for a written decision, which he issued Thursday.

Attorneys for the county argued then that Save Red Rock did not file its open meetings law violation allegation within the statute of limitations set by the state. It also argued that the lawsuit was irrelevant because physical development of the community is still reliant on several factors, including approval from the BLM to access adjacent land it owns and environmental impact statements.

“We are wasting time and taxpayer money,” argued county attorney Rob Warhola, “when it could all be for naught because the BLM denies their application.”

Wiese ultimately disagreed, writing in the order: “Although the Court acknowledges that there are several contingencies which must be met before homes can actually be built … the County and Gypsum admittedly are pressing forward with the processing of (the 2011 plan) in the attempt to develop the property which Save Red Rock is attempting to protect. This Court must conclude that the validity of the 2011 Specific Plan and (Public Facilities Needs Assessment) are at issue, and form the basis of a justiciable controversy between the parties.”

Clark County did not have immediate comment on the decision.

Save Red Rock was pleased with the outcome.

“We think it was a thoughtful decision,” says Save Red Rock attorney Justin Jones, who is also running for a seat on the county commission. “We are very pleased with what was a complete victory.”

The case now moves into the discovery stage, which Jones estimates may last four to six months.

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