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September 17, 2014

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Stupak’s Titanic launch delayed

The Las Vegas City Council on Monday allowed casino developer Bob Stupak to keep anchored for two weeks a rezoning request for a Titanic-themed hotel, despite a flood of concern from neighbors of the planned project.

No reason was publicly stated for delaying the request, although Mayor Jan Laverty Jones told dozens of residents that developers routinely ask for, and are granted, two-week delays in such decisions.

But Jim and Sally Mills seemed to think there was something else behind Stupak's motives.

"This is a typical builder, developer ploy," said Jim Mills, who lives on Sixth Place just two blocks from where the hotel -- with its 280-foot smokestacks -- is planned at Las Vegas Boulevard and Park Paseo. "He got some very bad press over the weekend and today marks the beginning of National Historic Preservation Week.

"This is a ploy to get him out of this bad time frame," Mills said.

Other residents, like Kenny Stewart -- who had to find a substitute to take over his teaching job Monday afternoon in order to attend the meeting -- agreed.

"I'll do my best to be back in two weeks," said Stewart, who lives in an unusual English Tudor-style home on South Sixth Street. "This is a neighborhood people pick by choice. The first time I made a wrong turn onto Sixth Street 10 years ago, I was hooked."

The neighborhood -- stretching loosely from Las Vegas Boulevard to Seventh Street between Park Paseo and Oakey Boulevard -- is one of downtown's oldest and most unusual residential areas.

Stupak's plans call for construction of a 1,000-room hotel, financed through sales of time-shares on the property, and an adjacent 30,000-square-foot "Iceberg Commercial Area."

The property, which includes six acres on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard and close to two acres on the west side, is currently zoned C-1, or limited commercial.

Stupak's request for C-2 zoning on the site would allow for construction of "The Boat," as he is calling the project. The Titanic replica and iceberg would be on the east side of the boulevard, on the current site of Stupak's Thunderbird Hotel.

A parking garage would be constructed on the west side of the boulevard and linked to The Boat via a pedestrian overpass.

The site is currently not eligible for gaming due to state law prohibiting gaming from Fremont Street to St. Louis Avenue. Some of the neighbors believe Stupak is lobbying to change that law, although Stupak himself has said he has no plans to include a casino in the iceberg.

"There are other appropriate uses on Las Vegas Boulevard other than what seems to me to be a giant casino," Sally Mills said.

Several residents who will be unable to attend the May 24 meeting were allowed to enter brief comments into the public record on Monday, despite Stupak's absence from the meeting.

Bob Bellis, president of the John S. Park Neighborhood Association, gave council members a letter inviting each of them to tour the historic neighborhood that first housed many of downtown's gaming executives and now is a diverse blend of professionals, retirees and new middle-class families.

"I don't know why Mr. Stupak is asking to wait now," Bellis said, referring to the April 8 Planning Commission meeting at which Stupak fought a request to hold the item for 60 days.

"He said then he wanted to hurry this up to get his financing of the project in place," Bellis said.

The Planning Commission unanimously denied Stupak's request April 8 just hours after he held a press conference -- complete with a live Robert Goulet performance -- to announce formal plans for the project.

Stupak has not returned several calls seeking comment. He has told some neighbors he is willing to buy their homes at a premium.

Most of the 190 residents who signed the petition against the zoning change, however, said they did not want to sell their homes.

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