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Las Vegans have been up in arms about a proposed 3,000-home development near Red Rock Canyon for years.
And for now, those plans are stalled, thanks to a recent vote by the Clark County Commission.
It’s the latest in a long-running war over the rural status of Blue Diamond Hill, which is surrounded on three sides by Red Rock Conservation Area, a popular recreation site west of Las Vegas.
The commission ruled that Gypsum Resources, the company behind the housing development, must first get approval from the Bureau of Land Management to create a connecting road on federal land. The BLM has previously rejected those proposals.
The developers had sought to wave that step and move forward with presenting a specific plan for the development. The specific plan would have outlined all kinds of details about the proposed community.
During the commission meeting, supporters of Save Red Rock and other conservation groups were again out in force, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Shea Johnson.
"They are concerned that this is going to potentially create a footprint around the Red Rock National Conservation Area that's going to hurt the ecosystem there," Johnson said.
Johnson said of all the public comment cards submitted to the commission there was only one that supported the developer's plan but there were more than 30 cards submitted opposing the plan.
"The people in the Las Vegas Valley really appreciate getting away from the city," Johnson said, "They appreciate the nature that is not very far from them. They see it as sort of this blessing that they're able to go so close to these preservation areas. They want to make sure that that's maintained."
While opponents to the development want to make sure the area is preserved and maintained, the developers argue that the land is already a strip mining operation and turning into a housing development would actually improve its condition.
Ron Krater is the project spokesman for Gypsum Resources. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that the delay is actually a good thing because it allows the company time to talk with the recently elected county commissioners about how to move forward.
"We do feel that this time that is going to be spent working toward securing a right of way from the BLM for the new access road to the property...will be used very productively in educating and in working closely with the commission and the community stakeholders in attempting to define a plan that will be acceptable to everyone," Krater said.
Krater said Gypsum Resources understands the concerns that people have about the project, but he believes everyone involved can come to a "palatable" plan.
County Commissioner Justin Jones has been opposed to the development for years. Before becoming a commissioner, Jones worked as an attorney for the Save Red Rock nonprofit group. He disclosed that connection before he voted against Gypsum Resources' waiver.
Jones said there are a lot of concerns about the project.
"As we have seen from prior meetings at the county commission, there are a plethora of other concerns that the community has, and that I share, with this proposal, from conservation concerns to public safety concerns. The cost and expense to the general public of pulling utilities up to the top of the mountain, schooling--there are a host of concerns," Jones said.
While Gypsum Resources is looking to create a plan to make as many sides as possible happy, Jones said the county is under no obligation to approve any plan for the site.
He said many alternatives to homes have been proposed, from a mining museum to a conservation easement area. He believes the property could be used to relieve some of the overcrowding at the Red Rock Visitor Center and the Red Rock Scenic Loop.
Krater didn't dismiss those ideas. Instead, the developers believe some of those ideas could be "woven" into the housing plans. He said public access to the area could be maintained with parks and trails open to anyone to use.
There's no word on just how long the BLM will take to decide the road issue.
Justin Jones, Commissioner, Clark County Board of Commissioners;
Shea Johnson, reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Ron Krater, consultant and project spokesman, Gypsum Resources
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