LAS VEGAS (AP) — A prominent local developer won another step in a more than 10-year battle Wednesday for approval to build as many as 5,000 homes on hilltop property he owns within eyesight of the scenic Red Rock National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas.
A 5-2 Clark County Commission vote not to kill builder Jim Rhodes’ plan came after five hours of testimony from 128 speakers who overwhelmingly opposed letting Rhodes build homes, schools and stores on more than 3 square miles of a former gypsum mine on Blue Diamond Hill.
The vote came after Rhodes’ attorneys at the last minute withdrew a proposal submitted last year and returned to a plan previously approved by the county in August 2011.
A county spokesman, Dan Kulin, said the move means additional public hearings and commission approvals will be needed for Rhodes to continue forward.
The site is about 20 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip — across a state highway from a popular hiking, biking and climbing area that drew 2.2 million visitors last year.
One commissioner, Larry Brown, marveled at the intensity of the battle pitting the interests of development against conservation.
He said he thought “misinformation” about the project had been “exceeded only by the passion of the speakers” who lined up for hours to speak their three-minute piece.
Rhodes had shelved the 2011 plan while trying unsuccessfully to arrange a land swap with the federal Bureau of Land Management that would have let him build elsewhere. The bureau manages the Red Rock conservation area.
His 2016 proposal drew a unanimous recommendation for denial last October from county planning panel members, setting up Wednesday’s commission vote.
Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly voted against approval, after Giunchigliani said she believed the 2011 plan should have expired.
Commissioner Susan Brager said strict county review during upcoming development steps could reduce the density of the project.
Rhodes, the builder of thousands of homes in developments including Rhodes Ranch, Tuscany Village and Spanish Hills, bought the Blue Diamond mine property in 2003. He also owns ranch property in northwest Arizona.
State and county lawmakers passed land use restrictions that effectively killed his first proposal for a master-planned community.
Lawsuits followed, plans stalled further during the Great Recession, and the process stopped when Rhodes’ development company filed bankruptcy in 2009.
Several officials and speakers referred Wednesday to the previous court battles, and said they expected another following the commission decision.