Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2014

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State panel OKs money for I-15 project in Las Vegas

State officials have reluctantly approved a $10.6 million settlement for 2.8 acres of vacant land needed for an Interstate 15 expansion in Las Vegas. The cost is more than double the initial appraised value of the land.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said she was "shocked" that the value jumped by more than 100 percent in one year.

Gov. Brian Sandoval questioned the sharp increase of the appraised values of the parcels on Charleston Boulevard, needed for the project. "I'm sure everybody would like to see their property values go up 100 percent in a year," the governor said.

Sandoval and Masto, as part of the state Board of Examiners, voted for the settlement while Secretary of State Ross Miller opposed, saying he wanted more time to look into the discrepancies of the two evaluations.

The property is owned by Vegas Group and Coral Capital. The Transportation Department filed suit to condemn the parcels and based their value at $4.7 million on the first appraisal. The owners challenged that and a second appraisal was conducted the following year that valued the land at $10.6 million.

Erich Storm, the lawyer that handled the case for the state, said that after the first appraisal in 2011, there were several nearby sales that boosted the value of the land.

Sandoval said he was not happy with the change in value but refusal to approve the settlement could mean the case would be back in court and the state could face paying even more.

"There is a huge unknown," he said. This change in value was bad for the state but good for Clark County because of the higher land values, he said.

The deal is contingent on a settlement with a third company that maintains it has an easement on the property. Storm assured the board the dispute over the easement would not drive up the cost the state is going to pay.

Storm also said he expected this dispute to be settled within days.

State Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon told the board the federal government would pick up 24 percent and possibly more of the cost. He said the state has acquired 29 of the 52 parcels needed for the work, dubbed Project Neon.

It is a $1.5 billion project that extends 3.7 miles between the Spaghetti Bowl and Sahara Avenue. Work will span the next 20 years.

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