A bill that could prevent developers from putting up homes near national conservation areas in Nevada is less restrictive than originally written.
The original bill, by Assemblyman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, would have banned development within five miles of these areas, which includes Red Rock Canyon just west of Las Vegas.
In its modified form, the bill would demand environmental impact statements from developers who want to build within a half-mile of a national conservation area.
Yeager said he changed the bill because the first version was too restrictive. The new bill, he said, will still be a tough hurdle for developers to get beyond.
“I think a half a mile really accomplishes the goal of making sure that right up to these conservation areas we’re being responsible in the way that we grow and build,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada.
And, in the case of Red Rock National Conservation Area, a developer there has many more challenges.
Developer Gypsum Resources wants to build several thousand homes near Red Rock, a plan that was first put forward more than a decade ago. Plans were mostly scrapped during the Great Recession.
Due to current zoning allowances, Gypsum already can build 1,200 to 1,400 homes in an area where a gypsum mine currently operates, said Gypsum Resources spokesman Ron Krater.
Krater said the company fully intends to move forward with those plans.
But to increase the number of homes, the developer still needs approval from the Clark County Commission. In interviews with “KNPR’s State of Nevada” earlier this year, Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said commissioners have the ability to turn down requests to increase the number of homes.
Before it ever gets to that point, though, developers might have to pass the guidelines suggested in Yeager’s bill.
Krater said Gypsum Resources still wants to know what Yeager’s bill would require in terms of tests that a developer would need to complete because they're already following rules and regulations laid out by local and federal governments.
“The idea that Legislature feels the need to redefine in some way shape or form or create new standards for properties that are only within a one-half mile proximity to the conservation area seems to us – again – to be reactive,” Krater said.
Krater said the language in the bill is not "congruent" with development and environmental impact study language they are used to dealing with.
However, Yeager said he has bipartisan support for his bill. If it passes through both the Assembly and the Senate, it would still need a signature by Governor Brian Sandoval to become law.
“The beauty of the bill is that it just doesn’t prevent anyone from doing anything but it makes sure that we’re taking a harder look in these areas and making sure that our values are being applied when looking at projects within that half-mile buffer zone,” Yeager said.
Assemblyman Steve Yeager, District 9, Las Vegas; Ron Krater, spokesman, Gypsum Resources