Las Vegas Sun

August 23, 2014

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Lee Canyon, Deer Creek residents seek voice

Developers have looked at the alpine environment of Lee Canyon as a great place for commercial development, much to the horror of the few hundred residents of the tree-lined side of Mount Charleston. Now those residents will get a formal voice in Clark County land-use decisions affecting the mountain.

The Clark County Commission has approved including the isolated rural areas of Mount Charleston's Lee Canyon and Deer Creek within the Mount Charleston Town Advisory Board. The County Commission appointed longtime Las Vegas lawyer and 17-year Lee Canyon resident Pat Fitzgibbons to represent the area on the five-member town board.

The board, like others throughout the county, provides formal hearings on significant land-use requests and county policies within a town hall environment.

For many residents, town board meetings are the first opportunity for them to learn about big projects that will affect them or their neighborhoods. The Mount Charleston town board, which represents the more-populated Kyle Canyon, is about 40 years old, but the residents of Lee Canyon and Deer Creek had opted out of participating in the public meetings.

Several proposed commercial developments, however, changed the perspective of residents on the Lee Canyon side of the mountain, which is north of Las Vegas and is home to the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort.

According to Chris Munhall, the county's liaison to the town board, there are about 100 homes and perhaps twice as many full-time residents on the Lee Canyon side. There are about 400 homes on the Kyle Canyon side of the mountain, an area that attracts thousands of visitors, especially after the mountain's frequent winter snowstorms.

Stephanie Myers, a Lee Canyon resident since 1995 and a Las Vegas trial consultant, said several failed efforts to establish new commercial resorts helped convince residents that they needed a formal voice in the advisory process.

"Now there's another layer that commercial developers have to go through to rape and pillage the mountain," she said.

County Commissioner Chip Maxfield represents the area and pushed for including a Lee Canyon representative on the town board.

"Now the entire mountain, both canyons, will have representation, so both sides will know if there is any kind of development," he said. Maxfield had made it a policy to have issues affecting Lee Canyon heard by the Mount Charleston board, but the Lee Canyon residents had no formal voice until now.

The area is served by wells, and homeowners use generators for electricity, he said. Lee Canyon and Deer Creek - an adjacent area that links Kyle and Lee canyons - "can only sustain a certain amount of development," Maxfield said.

Fitzgibbons said he will work to ensure development is compatible with the sensitive character of the tiny community.

"We need all the help we can get in keeping the wrong type of development out of this pristine subalpine environment," he said. "There is a place for everything. This is not the place for commercial development. You have that in Las Vegas."

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