Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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County forms redevelopment agency

The Clark County Commission voted Tuesday to create a redevelopment agency to oversee multi-million dollar projects aimed at improving blighted areas of the county.

Now the commission must come up with a redevelopment plan, hire a consultant, conduct a study of blighted areas and address critical legal issues involved with such an entity.

"My understanding is that we are the only municipal agency in the area that does not have one," Commissioner Myrna Williams said before the approval. "This is the first step; it will allow us to gather the information we need to make our decisions."

Commissioners Chip Maxfield and Bruce Woodbury voted against the redevelopment agency because, they said, they are uneasy about the eminent domain power such entities wield. Eminent domain is the power of a government agency to take private property for public use.

Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates said she shared the concern but the redevelopment agency is needed to rebuild areas such as the Commercial Center shopping area on East Sahara Avenue.

Woodbury said: "If the board decides to go forward ... it needs to be with willing buyers and willing sellers."

In March a Las Vegas eminent domain case was listed as one of the nation's 10 worst examples of government agencies ousting people from their homes or businesses to make way for private development.

The case involved a long-running dispute between the Pappas family of Las Vegas and the city's downtown redevelopment agency. The agency seized 7,000 square feet of downtown commercial property from the family in 1993 to clear space for the Fremont Street Experience parking garage.

Lawyers at the Washington-based Institute for Justice, a private group that helps property owners fight eminent domain cases, said the Pappas case made its list because the city agency seized and razed the property quickly, without giving the family due process.

But Lesa Coder, director of the business development office for the city of Las Vegas, said that project and the assembly of land for the City Center Place office building were among the recent successes of the Las Vegas redevelopment agency.

"There are definitely areas (in Clark County) that could use the help," Coder said. "I think its going to be a tremendous benefit for all of us."

Kenny Young, North Las Vegas redevelopment manager, said his agency has had most of its success since its formation in 1990 in tearing down old, dilapidated homes in the city's older neighborhoods

The North Las Vegas agency has not yet resorted to using eminent domain, but the law is there for municipalities to use when land owners demand prices far above market values, he said.

"We should move slowly and develop good policies," Gates said. "It is something that is necessary if we are going to clean up blight in certain areas."

Henderson has had a redevelopment agency since December 1994. It has created three separate redevelopment areas encompassing 2,450 acres, including the old downtown and two abandoned mines.

The city has spent more than $5 million buying downtown homes and tearing them down to make way for commercial construction.

A downtown facade improvement program using $200,000 in redevelopment funds has provided some of the first tangible signs of progress.

Sun reporters

Jeffrey Libby and Emily Richmond contributed to this report.

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