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April 23, 2014

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County approves Rhodes’ planned project near Red Rock

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Christopher DeVargas

Hundreds show up at the Clark County Government Center on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, to protest a plan by Jim Rhodes to develop some 3,000 acres off Blue Diamond Road near the Red Rock National Conservation Area.

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011 | 5:42 p.m.

Protesting Rhodes' Red Rocks Development

Hundreds show up at the Clark County Government Center on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, to protest a plan by Jim Rhodes to develop some 3,000 acres off Blue Diamond Road near the Red Rock National Conservation Area. Launch slideshow »

Rhodes Development Approved

Rhodes development approved on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Developer Jim Rhodes smiles on Blue Diamond Hill on Monday, May 5, 2003. Las Vegas can be seen in the background.

Hundreds of people showed up at the Clark County Government Center on Wednesday to protest a plan by Jim Rhodes to develop some 3,000 acres off Blue Diamond Road, near the Red Rock National Conservation Area.

The Clark County Commission began hearing Rhodes’ representatives and their plan for the development about 10 a.m., calling the project an “intelligent, healthy community.” It wasn't until late into the afternoon that they voted to allow the project to move forward after spirited debate.

Hundreds were on hand and many of them were seeking the opportunity to speak.

The plan is to build homes on Blue Diamond Hill, off State Route 159, the location of the non-operational Blue Diamond Gypsum Mine, a strip-mining operation for 40 to 50 years.

About 300 people live in the tiny community of Blue Diamond. Also located near the proposed development are the tiny hamlets of Calico Basin and Bonnie Springs.

A Rhodes representative described the development as a kind of Shangri-La, the perfect place to live, work and commune with nature and neighbors. A few in the standing-room audience snickered at some of the descriptions, which include:

• "An opportunity to go back" in time, to create a community like in the olden days, "communities that have stood the test of time."

• Creating a community so great that it would attract a world-class school; live-work residential housing; "places to meet neighbors."

• "A model for development and for dealing with future growth."

• Preservation of "the most sensitive areas for open space" -- development would occur largely on areas already decimated by strip mining.

• A business and research park.

Speaking on behalf of the project, Jeremy Aguero, principal with Applied Analysis, discussed the potential economic impact of the project. He said the total cost over 20 years to build-out is about $2.3 billion. And if $1.68 dollars in sales and consumption activity occurs from each dollar of investment -- the historical average -- the project would create $3.9 billion in sales and consumption.

In addition, he said construction of the project would generate 11,900 person-years (one person employed for a year) of employment. Indirectly, the project would create 9,300 jobs, he said.

After Aguero spoke, activist and consultant Lisa Mayo-Deriso criticized his analysis, saying it lacked a cost-benefit projections, including what kind of impact the project would have "next to a national treasure (Red Rock National Conservation Area)."

Another speaker directed his comments at Commission Chairwoman Susan Brager, who earlier pleaded with the audience not to applaud or boo comments. "We get it," Brager had told the crowd.

In response, a speaker said, "With all due respect, Mrs. Brager, we don't think you get it. Nobody in this room thinks you get it."

Many people laughed and applauded the remark, causing Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, a school teacher, to admonish the crowd to be respectful. "I taught my (school) kids to respect each other," she said. "Applauding, booing for those kind of comments is not respectful."

Attorney Chris Kaempfer, representing the development, reminded commissioners that they lost a legal fight over the property last year.

The county tried to expand a Red Rock protected area to include the gypsum mine area, but the courts said they didn't have that right. In turn, the county signed and agreement with the developer that Kaempfer said means the commissioners "cannot just deny this application. And if you do establish a density, it has to be something that would not be unreasonable."

The current density that the acreage is zoned for --one home per two acres -- isn't reasonable, Kaempfer said, since other major project in the valley average 5.5 homes per acre.

He urged the commission to approve Rhodes' plan for 2.9 homes per acre.

The county's real estate attorney reminded commissioners that what they are dealing with today is only a concept plan. "It's very vague, very general," said Deputy District Attorney Rob Warhola.

The next step would be a more specific plan, in which the county would identify issues and problems, then attach conditions to the plan.

The conceptual plan passed 5-2, with Commissioners Lawrence Weekly and Chris Giunchigliani voting against it.

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  1. If it's his land he should be able to build on it. If you disagree you are welcome to offer him enough money to sell it, then you can leave it as is.

    I think the people who live out there and are protesting are being hypocritical. Why is it okay for them to live there but nobody else?

  2. Having attended many commission meetings, I cannot believe the level of disrespect for citizens displayed by Commissioners Brager and Collins during today's Gypsum Resources hearing.

    Commissioner Brager, how can you read our minds and "get it" before we have spoken? Are all citizens the same in your eyes? If you can "get" the environmental community before hearing us, can you do the same with the development community? Your rudeness set the tone for the rest of the hearing.

    And Commissioner Collins, no one invited or appreciated you lecturing the citizens during OUR public comment period, in the bizare and ignorant way that is your style. The concept plan and the development are stupid and it was not impolite for folks to say so - so sorry if you were offended.

    This commission seems intent on reinventing the ways of previous commissions, some of the members of whom ended up in prison.

    Commissioners, is there no development you won't approve? The voters are watching - you can run, but not hide!

  3. "I wouldn't trust Jim Rhode to build a sandbox! The man left millions of dollars in construction defects at his other projects. I wouldn't trust his word, his work, or anything he says or does"

    CORRECT!!! I was privy to the multiple construction defect lawsuits against Rhodes Builders. THe man builds crap.

  4. Thank you Commissioners Giunchigliani and Weekly for your integrity and actually thinking about the good of the Valley as opposed to the good of developers. 7000+ more homes in a Valley full of foreclosed home is not needed, especially when it is leap-frog development next to a national natural treasure.

  5. 'A done deal before it started' So no matter how many people come out to protest, its all just window dressing. Sad!

  6. Part 1 -

    The Clark County Assessors Records show that the property at issue in this article is owned by Gypsum Resources, LLC and was purchased on March 13, 2003 for $50,494,348 and that the deed was re-recorded on 7/3/2008 to "correct an error in the legal description". The County Recorder's Office's online records do not readily produce any information about whether there is a deed of trust or mortgage on the property. Gypsum Resources, LLC has as its LLC manager Truckee Springs Holdings, Inc. of which James M. Rhodes is President, Treasurer and Secretary and John C. Rhodes of Las Vegas and David J. Lyon of Salt Lake City are Directors, along with James M. Rhodes.

    From the U.S. District Court for Nevada (Las Vegas) PACER Docket, the "Settlement Agreement" between Gypsum Resources, LLC (the Rhodes entity) and defendants "County of Clark and David Roger, in is Official Capacity of the County of Clark" (the Defendants) is Document 89 in Case No. 2:05-cv-00583 filed with the court on 5/5/09. A court worder approving the Settlement Agreement was signed on 5/18/10.

    In the Settlement Agreement page 2, lines 4-8 recites "This agreement is not a specific approval of any development plan and any such plan must be approved by the County's Board of Commissioners (BCC) through the normal Title 30 hearing process."

    The "Recitals of Fact" at page 3 Paragraph G recites that on or about November 24, 2009 the Federal District Court issued its Order granting in full the motion made by Gypsum Resources LLC as to the State, thereby voiding the state law [relating to preservation of the Rhodes land]. That paragraph also recites that at the same time the Federal District Court granted the County's motion for summary judgment as (against Gypsum Resources) as to substantive due process grounds and denied in part the County's motion for summary judgment on equal protection grounds. The Settlement Agreement continues at Paragraph H "As a result of the Federal District Court's orders issued on March 27, 2008 and November 24, 2009, Gypsum's First Cause of Action, for Violation of Equal Protection, remains to be tried, and trial is scheduled on May 4, 2010." Paragraph I says "The parties wish to settle...on the terms set forth in this Agreement." Paragraph J provides that the County and Gypsum attended a Mandatory Settlement Conference before a different U.S. District Court Judge than the judge who would have heard the trial.

    Paragraph M of the "Recitals of Fact" on page 4 of the Settlement Agreement provides "The County and Gypsum recognize that through this Agreement there are no guarantees, commitments or binding obligations by County to approve a Major Project application, or to approve any uses or increased densities proposed by Gypsum as part of any Major Project application and that the County retains discretion regarding any application submitted by Gypsum as a Result of this Agreement."

  7. Part 2

    Paragraph 2 of Settlement Agreement refers to County Ordinance CCO 2914 adding a new Section 30.48.312 to the Clark County Code (the "Amending Ordinance"). In that paragraph the County agreed that if the Amending Ordinance was not adopted by the Commissioners on April 21, 2010, the Settlement Agreement would be of no force or effect. In return for the Commissioners adopting that Amending Ordinance Gypsum Resources agreed to dismiss, with the ability to refile at a later date, Case No. 2:05-cv-00583. Gypsum Resources also agreed to dismiss and not refile a companion Nevada state court lawsuit. Gypsum signed a broad release of its claims against the Defendants arising prior to the Settlement Agreement.

    Paragraph 5 of the Settlement Agreement is worth quoting in full: "The Parties acknowledge that, after adoption of the Amending Ordinance, and approval of this Agreement, Gypsum intends to submit a Major Project application for the development of a master planned community pursuant to Chapter 30.20 of the Clark County Code, and subject to generally applicable and currently adopted Codes (the "Major Project Application"). The County and Gypsum acknowledge that the Major Project Application may include adjustments, considerations and deviations to take into account the previous mining activities on the Property. The County agrees that it will process the Major Project Application under the Major Projects process in good faith. Gypsum understand that the County, by this Agreement, cannot and is not committing to approval of any particular Major Project and/or any particular densities or uses."

    Paragraph 6 of the Settlement Agreement is lengthy, but in essence provides that ingress and egress from the Major Project is to be to the east (i.e. not into Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.)

    Paragraph 7 of the Settlement Agreement states that Gypsum intends to "apply for land exchanges" so that the parts of Gypsum's land in the Red Rock National Canyon Conservation Area are exchanged for other land outside the conservation area. Paragraph 7 then recites: "If the County within its absolute and sole discretion is in favor of proposed land exchange(s) between Gypsum and the BLM for the Property inside the RRCNCA, then the County agrees to provide a letter in support of the exchange(s). In no event is the County making any representation or guarantee that the County will be in favor of such an exchange(s) or that such exchange(s) will be approved by the Bureau of Land Management.

    The Settlement Agreement was signed on May 5, 2010 by Commissioner Susan Brager as Vice Chairman of the Commission and by Rory Reid as Chairman of the Commission. Robert T. Warhola signed the Settlement Agreement on behalf of David Roger as District Attorney in his capacity as the County's attorney.

  8. Part 3 My observations:

    (1) Based upon the express wording of the Settlement Agreement described above, the Commissioners did not HAVE TO approved the Major Project Application today. Instead, the Settlement Agreement said, again and again, that it was a discretionary decision on the part of the Commission. As a result, pro-labor Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani's statement to Channel 8 tonight, that she felt that the County had acted in good faith in reviewing the Major Project Application, and that she was not forced to vote for the Major Project Application and did not vote for it, is exactly on point. As a result, any political spin by the 5 Commissioners who DID vote for the Major Project Application claiming that they "had to" approve the Major Project Application because of the Settlement Agreement is absolutely not true. Either they affirmatively wanted to approve the Major Project Application based on its content, or they were afraid the County would be sued again by Gypsum Resources, LLC. Most public agencies don't like to publicly cave in, big time, in public, out of "fear of litigation" so I am betting that the former explanation is closer to reality.

    (2) The sorts of lawsuits like this Federal case are filed by developers all the 9th Circuit, all the time, and big and small cities and counties win the lawsuits, either at trial or appeal. For example, in Ventura County, California planned community developers have repeatedly sued small cities, in Federal court, with little success, because the little cities hired "hot shot Federal trial land use lawyers". It would be interesting to know if the County was penny wise and pound foolish in the matter of defending the Blue Diamond Ridge case, or whether the County's attorneys have a history of beating developers in these sorts of cases and simply hit a patch of bad luck.

    (3) In contrast, Gypsum Resources, LLC hired Manatt Phelps & Phillips, which has 9 offices throughout the United States, and on its website described its land use litigation practice as "The firm's Land Use practice is strengthened by the ties we maintain with regulators and key contacts in federal, state and local government. Many of our lawyers are former government attorneys, lobbyists, developers and/or members of local planning commissions. We understand the land use and development business from all sides of the table, and bring our experience to work in advising clients and advocating on their behalf. We have received frequent accolades for our sophisticated, results-driven counsel, including listings in Chambers USA, Best Lawyers in America and The Legal 500."

  9. Part 4 My additional observations:

    (4) It's important to note that despite loose talk to the contrary James M. Rhodes did NOT file bankruptcy. Instead Rhodes Homes and many of its sister and subsidiary companies filed a consolidated Chapter 11 case, and utilized Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones of Los Angeles as their bankruptcy lawyers. Richard Pachulski is widely known to be the most brilliant and creative debtors lawyer in Southern California. So "Jim" Rhodes knows how to find, hire and pay excellent lawyers.

    (5) There's always a fear when law firms from outside of Las Vegas come into town and appear "pro hac vice" that the out-of-town lawyers will be "home towned" by Las Vegas own excellent private lawyers. Unfortunately, in the Blue Diamond Ridge case, the reverse was true, because Clark County did not hire outside counsel.

    (6) At today's hearing, Gypsum Resources, LLC was represented by attorney Chris Kaempfer, who is widely considered to be one of Las Vegas' top two planning and zoning lawyers.

    (7) The residents of Blue Diamond and other project opponents have to ask themselves if Clark County's Comprehensive Planning Department met with them repeatedly, listened to their concerns, and pressured Gypsum Resources LLC to make changes in the project shown in the Major Project Application. If the majority of the reasonable changes requested by the projecte opponents were made at the insistence of the County staff, then the project opponents got a fair shake, and they were simply out-gunned in terms of both lobbying and lawyering. If the project opponents were simply blown off by the Comprehensive Planning Department staff and the Commissioner for the Blue Diamond Area, during communications occurring before today's hearing, then the adverse conclusions by commenters on this board are probably warranted.

    (8) There's nothing in the Settlement Agreement prohibiting the Blue Diamond Ridge Opponents from challenging today's decision by the Commissioners in court. However, unfortunately, Clark County's ordinances and Nevada's laws are generally pretty useless, compared with those in many other states, in terms of finding something technically, legally wrong with the Commissioners' decision. Sad but true.

  10. Thank YOU, Cynical Observer, for the superb analysis! Your summation (with my adjustments): "Nevada laws USELESS Sad, but true."

    One missing element I see here, and that is WATER, which speaks to the SUSTAINABILITY of this project in reality.

    Sure, the zoning can be set at 2 homes per acre NOW, and just as HISTORY is here in Nevada, and Clark County, in a matter of years, the zoning will change, just look at the EAST side of Las Vegas around Sunrise Mountain area! That once was populated with horses and small ranches and breath-taking views. Now look at it! Let this lesson speak to you! Commissioners CHANGE ZONING after the fact up the road.

    WATER for more housing is what bothers me. Until Clark County has that under control and answered, and it is SUSTAINABLE, there should be a moritorium on NEW CONSTRUCTION IN SOUTHERN NEVADA!

    That means only new building can or should occur on previously built sites, or in other words, we are "RECYCLING OLD BUILDING SITES" and infrastructure, making improvements upon those until the WATER situation is sustainable.

    Thank you.

    One solution to fix the water: build a transcontinental channel using existing easements across the USA collect MIDWESTERN FLOOD/DISASTER WATERS and channeling them across land to the WEST. Along the way, water can be dispensed to drought plagued areas for relief as well.

    Thank you.

  11. For Noindex,
    Are property owners rights unlimited?

  12. There is one other place that is a GOLD MINE to build his dream village: LAUGHLIN!

    Readers in the know, especially if they read the Las Vegas Sun, have already read articles about ENN, a Chinese Corporation, buying up land out near Laughlin, to build a SOLAR MANUFACTURING PLANT AND SOLAR POWER PLANT!

    Link:http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/jun/30/solar-project-could-be-start-diversified-economy/#comments

    Well, the Colorado River certainly runs arounds that neck of the desert woods, and it would seem prudent that if a little guy investor wanted to have a HOME and maybe a JOB, this certainly PROMISES more of a FUTURE! (wink-wink-nod-nod)

    Some of you went to that meeting MAD and left MAD. Don't be MAD, get EVEN.

    Peace =)