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Arizona Commuting

INTRO: The Hoover Dam Bypass is easing the spread of Las Vegas into neighboring Arizona where land just on the other side of Lake Mead is cheap. Land speculators have driven up the price there 1 thousand 500 percent since the early 90's. KNPR's Ky Plaskon took a drive out to White Hills, Arizona to see how it's changing.

PLASKON: On the other side of the Hover Dam there has never been much. The White Hills mine was abandoned in the early 1900d's and it's still the same, a few Joshua trees and a lot of flat empty land. But off in the distance, 5 miles from highway 93 in a seemingly random spot are some white specks. On closer examination - they are new houses. Bill Pitt is here to maybe buy one.

SOUND: This is the master bedroom.

PLASKON: This new 17-hundred square foot house on an acre of property sold for 145 thousand dollars. Similar housing within an hour of Las Vegas in every other direction is selling for nearly that price just for the land. Bill Pitt is here because he doesn't want to live in cramped overpriced housing and is thinking about commuting.

PITT: All the houses are too close together

PLASKON: And so what do you think of the drive out here so far?

PITT: It's not so bad.

25,000 acres used for 35,000 homes. Approved in December of last year. Area Plan was approved. Balance is being sold. Fully funded

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PLASKON: Developers have been anticipating the opportunity here for nearly a decade now. Developer Leonard Mardian bought 35-thousand acres here for an undisclosed millions of dollars. According to the realtor that sold him the land, he plans to start building once the Hoover Dam Bypass is done and finish building in 15 years. But some developers still don't find it attractive. Jim Dunn is a broker for developers.

DUNN: There is a lot of better opportunities a lot closer. You can't ever speculate for somebody, they think they are being smart, but the people I work with, they aren't interested in that kinda thing.

PLASKON: Nonetheless Mardian has an approved Area Plan from Mojave county Arizona to build 35 thousand homes on 25 thousand acres. The rest of the land he plans to sell. Land here is in 5 acre parcels and smaller developers and speculators still have land at 15 thousand an acre because they would rather sell than jump through the hoops of subdivision. But subdivided land is valuable here. Mohave Homes and Land subdivided. Salesman Michael Symington says the developer is now fielding 120 calls a week to buy land.

SYMINGTON: I'm hearing this from the people who come out here. The price of homes in Las Vegas is too high for the average person when you are spending 200,000 for a home that isn't even on a 10th of an acre. Why not deal with a little bit of a commute and come out here for a house that is on a full acre for 150 thousand. Do the math.

PLASKON: Symington had 48 parcels 18 months ago. Since then, he's sold all but 5 and built two homes, both to Las Vegans. He says that the pace is a little slower out here, but it'll speed up once the Hoover Dam bypass is finished, cutting 15 minutes off the 60-minute commuting time to downtown Las Vegas.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

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Friday, July 30, 2004