Las Vegas Sun

March 18, 2019

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Las Vegas’ plan to annex small portions of Clark County fuels a flare-up

Ward 5

This map shows Las Vegas Ward 5 boundaries, including Clark County islands that could be annexed by the city.

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas? Not so fast, say some residents of unincorporated Clark County.

The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday voted 6-1 to begin the process of annexing 872 acres of land from the county, which would affect 1,553 private properties and their residents by transferring them from the county’s jurisdiction to the city.

A public hearing is set for Feb. 12 to discuss the proposal and accept formal objections or approvals from property owners. The vote was merely an approval to schedule the hearing and send out mandatory notifications to affected property owners.

Still, more than 30 residents spoke during public comment in opposition to annexation.

Some expressed concerns about ordinances related to animals or commercial equipment that differ between the city and county. Most, though, expressed concerns the annexation would raise their taxes and change the rural feel of their neighborhoods, which predate the parts of the city that surround them.

All of the land affected by the proposed annexation is completely encompassed by the city. These so-called “county islands” can lead to confusion among residents and are often inconvenient for municipalities. Example: The county is in charge of maintaining roads and infrastructure like streetlights, but the city fire department would respond to an emergency call because it services the larger area around it.

Councilman Steve Seroka was the lone no-vote on greenlighting the public hearing. His Ward 2 — comprising most of Summerlin and some adjacent areas — would not grow as a result of the annexation, but he expressed concern over the city providing services for nonresidents without reimbursement from the county.

“My taxpayers are footing the bill,” he said, before adding that it also seemed unfair to force longtime residents to switch jurisdictions because of factors beyond their control. “I don’t feel I’ve been prepared for this level of vote at this time.”

His peers were less concerned, instead stressing that the vote was simply the beginning of a transparent process.

“This is not the vote to annex,” said Councilman Bob Coffin to the dozens of county residents who attended the council meeting. “Don’t hit the panic button too quickly.”

Coffin's Ward 3 includes part of downtown and the eastern part of the official city limits.

Nevada law gives cities the ability to annex county land that it has completely surrounded, but not if the majority of property owners object to it. If 51 percent of property owners object, the city cannot acquire any of the land and must wait an entire year before trying again. If the objection threshold is not met, the city can still opt not to annex the land or to only annex a portion of it.

Those property owners can formally object or approve in person during the Feb. 12 public hearing, or in writing during a two-week period following the public hearing. Notices of that meeting will be mailed out to the property owners on record at the county assessor’s office on Jan. 16.

Councilman Ricki Barlow represents the area that would be most affected by the annexation. His Ward 5 includes part of downtown, the historic West Las Vegas and most of the area between U.S. 95 and Rancho Drive. He said he understood and respected the opposition of county residents but still supported moving forward with the process.

“If this is any indication of what is to be expected, I don’t see how we would move forward with annexation,” he said. “But how do I know that if I don’t give staff the opportunity to give notice to every single property?”