Las Vegas Sun

March 25, 2019

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Community mobilizes against annexation ahead of Las Vegas meeting

Las Vegas

Yvonne Gonzalez / Las Vegas Sun

Residents gather on Jan. 25, 2018, at the Winchester Cultural Center in Las Vegas for a community meeting to organize opponents of the city’s plan to annex islands of unincorporated Clark County.

Las Vegas residents are pushing back against a city plan to annex less than 1.4 square miles of unincorporated Clark County.

City council members will meet Monday to discuss the annexation of 10 so-called islands of county land that are surrounded by the city of Las Vegas. The council is not expected to vote to move forward with the plan, according to the city, and could decide to abandon the proposal or revisit it at a future meeting.

Annexation would increase property taxes for residents in these areas by roughly $200 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. Residents would also see changes in the types of animals and vehicles they can keep on their property, and worry they’d shoulder the cost if the city asks them to make infrastructure improvements.

“Our property taxes are supposed to increase quite a lot,” said resident Pamela Spittel, who has lived in her house with her husband for almost 18 years. “Anything that needs to be changed is going to be the responsibility of the homeowner, so that means if they decided to install street lights and sidewalks, which our whole area has except for our neighborhood, that falls on us.”

The Spittels were some of the locals who attended a Jan. 25 community meeting where organizers were gathering opposition to the annexation. Resident Tricia Pintar said she’s concerned about the impact on seniors and retirees living in the county islands.

“They’re on a fixed income,” Pintar said. “If you do this to them, it’s going to put it out of their reach for most of them.”

To kill the proposal for at least a year, opposed residents need to account for more than half the total value an acreage of the properties. Owners can formally object on Monday or in writing in the two weeks following the meeting.

Pintar and other residents say the onus should be on the city to prove that a majority is in favor of annexation. Though notices were sent out to residents who would be impacted, volunteers say spreading awareness to 1,553 parcel owners is a struggle. They’ve been using platforms such as Nextdoor and Facebook and spreading the word through neighborhood captains.

“What we need to do is talk to the state legislators and get the burden turned over to the city to get 51 percent of the votes on their side to annex rather than we have to go door to door,” said Dave Harrison, who chose to live in the house his parents bought in 1974 so that he could park his RV on the property, something he said is prohibited by the city. “They have a lot bigger staff than we do. Put the burden on the city, not on us.”

Pintar said organizers are also exploring rural historic preservation status to avoid annexation efforts in the future.

There isn’t much that the county can do to fight the plan, according to officials. The county estimates the annexation would result in $3 million in lost revenue.

“There absolutely would be (a revenue loss for the county),” said county manager Yolanda King. “But that hasn’t been their focus. It’s been on the property owner, because there definitely will be an increase in property tax for those property owners.”

King said that if the change goes through, owners would pay about 20 percent more in property taxes. Part of the debate is that residents of these portions of unincorporated Clark County pay less in taxes but still utilize certain city services, such as emergency services. King said this goes both ways, with city residents using county resources.

“Family services, juvenile justice, your courts, those are all services that are provided countywide regardless of where you live,” King said. “If you’re in the city of Las Vegas or North Las Vegas, those countywide services are provided to those residents, so it doesn’t matter where you live.”

Residents used a county space for the Jan. 25 meeting in preparation for the Monday annexation hearing, and some commissioners have spoken out and volunteered to inform people living in the 10 islands. Commissioner Lawrence Weekly went to a Las Vegas city council meeting to voice the county board’s opposition.

“When you get the majority of residents that have come forward like they have that are Clark County residents that wish to preserve their current quality of life, at least give them an opportunity to be heard, at least take that into consideration,” Weekly said after a Feb. 6 county commission meeting. “I’m just hoping that the city of Las Vegas would be willing to postpone this, maybe come back and revisit it, have an opportunity to meet with not only residents but representatives who also represent the area, and let’s just talk about what is it we can and cannot do, or should not do.”

Clark County commissioners approved a resolution Wednesday against the annexation, and on Jan. 26 sent a letter to the city opposing the plan.

“The proposed annexation has fostered hardship and apprehension on the affected citizens as they attempt to meet the significant administrative burdens thrust upon them to avoid involuntary annexation into the city,” the resolution says.